The Race issue Issue 7 spring 2012
The Race Issue 360 Staff
Editors-in-Chief Carolyn Cutrone, Sam McCann
The goal of 360 Magazine is to tell stories. Whole stories. Stories told journalistically and creatively, inside and out, up and down. If a hot story walks into our bar, 360 isn’t up for a one-night stand, honey ... we’re in it for the long haul. Let’s buy a house and make babies.
Editors Kyla Pigoni, Jessica Santos, Megan Blarr, Liam Curley
The idea of storytelling is one too often oversimplified. We believe that no story can be told fully from the standpoint of one writer or one perspective. As such, our staff chooses only one story to be told and retold and retold from a chorus of perspectives, bringing shade and depth to the way we communicate the vast and gorgeously diverse around us.
Design Editors Zach B. Briggs, Julia Cicale, Danielle West Art Director Karlem Sivira WebMaster Gautam Singhani Cover art courtesy of Mike Wardian Advisor Todd Schack Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions of the articles in this magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the entire 360 staff or Ithaca College. Special thanks to: The Student Government Association. 22
Every publication changes with new leadership. When we first took hold of 360 Magazine after its founders graduated, saying there was a lot to figure out is an extreme understatement. Somehow, through semesters apart while studying abroad, we both figured out how to put an issue together with the help of our editorial team and some extremely talented artists and writers. By the time we both arrived back on campus this past fall, the hardest part seemed to be behind us and we were ready to tackle our last year together focusing less on logistics and more on content. Now that we’re at the end, we’re quite proud of that content. When we first thought of the “race” issue, we of course related it to ethnicity, but also linked it to the significance of this upcoming election. The Republican nominee had yet to be chosen and the media stunts and absurdities were everywhere you turned. It was a horserace. Beyond the political circus, we took note of other races in our lives, ones not quite as transparent. They are woven more subtly into the fabric of society—naturalized competition that demands some set standard of success. And by the time we were sitting down with our first set of drafts, Trayvon Martin’s death dominated the national dialogue, reminding us all that our society is anything but post-racial. We took off with all these possibilities in January. Hitting every topic may never be what we are able to accomplish—there will always be room for more storytelling, a quiet voice or someone who’s not ready to speak up quite yet. But we hope to ignite creativity and thought through the branches of a single word. Our lives may be something of a race—as graduating seniors, we’re feeling that now more than ever— but we hope you take some time to slow down and enjoy our staff’s hard work. -Carolyn Cutrone and Sam McCann
QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? LOVE LETTERS? VIOLENT DISAGREEMENTS? EMAIL US: firstname.lastname@example.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Dancing with trauma Sam McCann
the bone maker 40 Jolene Cochran
boxing you in
rhymes with mufasa
calling a spade a spade
Against the Margin
stays in vegas
walking the tightrope
on my watch 34 not Benjamin Litoff
not another hemp article
the right pitch 36 Hitting Kyla Pigoni and Kerry Tcacik
Back in time
got jail 39 youâ€™ve Greg Rappaport
what goes on
Inside the ivy
the chanticleerâ€™s jukebox
keeping the beat
Benjamin Litoff and Emily Wortman
By Lewis Kendall
One athlete’s journey to becoming an ultramarathon runner
Tuesday – six miles the packet read. Wednesday – eight miles, Thursday – 10 miles, Friday – 12 miles. Mike Wardian is nervous. It’s the day of the race and he has covered all his bases. The competition has been scouted, the conditions of the course checked and rechecked, his own body monitored closely. He eats several hours before the race, something light, pasta or a sandwich. He carries with him several watches to keep track of time and a water bottle filled with energy gel. Sometimes he has pacers — friends who run alongside him to keep a steady rhythm — or assistants who bring him food and water on the course. Other times he is alone, with just the sound of his constant footfalls and the mechanic whispering of his breath. The race begins easily; the early miles are all about setting a good pace. But the struggles soon come in waves. A cramp in the foothills of South Africa, a bit of pain in the Sahara desert, dehydration from the heat of Death Valley, the simultaneous feeling of starvation and nausea that
stems from extreme exertion. For Wardian, these obstacles are welcome. They strip away all of the pretense and expose whatever is left, surrendering moments of introspection defined by determination and sheer strength of will. He powers himself along, sometimes listening to music, trying to block out the pains. Constantly checking in with his body, he evaluates his breathing, temperature, pace, heart rate, thirst, hunger and mental condition. There are times when he considers, however fleetingly, giving up. He has only experienced this several times in his career, but the sense of failure still resonates. And so he continues, pushing his body relentlessly, methodically, until he begins to approach the finish. After dozens of miles, hours upon hours of constant motion, he is close. The steady rhythm speeds up and the fog of concentration lifts. As if sensing the impending relief, his body conjures a burst of strength, propelling him over the last several miles and across the line. Another 50 miles under his belt and another podium finish. Mike Wardian was not always a runner. Lacrosse had been his sport, during his time at Oakton High in Virginia and then later at Michigan State. At an even six feet, he is taller than most runners, his vegetarian body lithe, slender, but deceptively powerful. His hair is long and straight, tucked into a white baseball cap worn backwards while he runs. His feet are
cracked and calloused from the pounding rhythm of countless miles, his toenails black, chipped and in some cases missing. It wasn’t until after college that the idea of distance running piqued his interest, when the mother of his close friend ran the Boston Marathon. She gave Wardian the training packet and set him on his way to becoming one of the most successful long distance runners in U.S history. A marathon is the ultimate challenge for many runners, the apex of their sport. But for those few that crave more, there exists what are called ultra marathons. These events are defined as any race totaling longer than the traditional 26.2 miles that make up a regular marathon. The most typical of these distances are 50 kilometers – around 31 miles, 100 kilometers – 62 miles, and a nice round 100 miles. But they don’t stop there. The longest is a 3100-mile event that takes over 40 days to complete, appropriately named the SelfTranscendence 3100 Mile Race. These marathons take place all over the world, from Italy to Antarctica to Africa, on mountainous trails, in sweltering deserts, along exposed coastlines, and occasionally even on indoor tracks. Because of the global nature of the sport, there is no traditional offseason and runners can often clock dozens of races per year. In 2008 alone Wardian ran a total of 53 races, in layman’s terms the equivalent of an ultramarathon per week. But in the beginning he started off slowly. After qualifying, Wardian ran in the Boston Marathon in 1996 and finished in 2 hours and 54 minutes – a “slow” time by his standards. To put this in perspec-
tive, over the course of the run Wardian averaged a tepid 6:38 mile. For 26 miles. Of course, he has improved a little since then. His personal best is now a shade under 2:18, an average of a 5 minute 13 second mile. But although he enjoys marathons, his true passion lies in running longer distances. He is a member of the US Track and Field 50k and 100k teams, a winner of bronze, silver and gold medals at the Track and Field World Championships, and has been named the USATF’s Ultra Runner of the Year every year since 2008. Between his runs, Wardian goes to work. He is a full-time employee of Potomac Maritime LLC, an international ship broking company that helps to deliver aid cargo to foreign countries. And when he is not running or working, he finds time to coach his kids’ basketball team. **** A few years later, it is June in Torhout, Belgium. The town of 20,000, located only a stone’s throw from the coastal city of Bruges, is alive with people. Runners make their way through the streets as part of the annual Night of Flanders, a series of road races in the northern province of the country. Wardian is there, thousands of miles from his house but still somehow at home. He glides through the cool night air as families emerge from their houses, setting up chairs alongside the road where they drink and eat, cheering at the runners passing by. Wardian is not alone for this race. As he runs a loop through the city, he
passes a staging of carnival rides erected temporarily as part of the festival, more entertainment for the spectators. From above, accompanied by their mother, two young children watch their father run. It is past their bedtime, but they are having too much fun twirling through the sky and cheering the small man down below. The hours melt away and the hoots from the bystanders gradually become more raucous. Wardian passes them once more. The boys try to stay awake. He passes again. They want to see their father win. When Wardian laps next, the two are sound asleep. Two years after the race in Belgium, Wardian is back running in Virginia. As Spiderman. He has come to set the world record for fastest marathon in a superhero costume, a mark set by a close friend of his. The run, however, proves more difficult than he anticipated. The web slinger’s mask has no mouth hole and so Wardian is forced to puncture his own in order to take in fluids during the race. This tactic backfires as the water quickly soaks into the material of the mask making it nearly impossible to breathe and forcing him to suck precious drops from the fabric. Spidey’s eyes are cumbersome as well, the silver material reflecting the sun’s blinding rays directly into Wardian’s face. To make matters worse the costume’s fake muscles are incredibly absorbent, and the more he sweats and drinks, the heavier the outfit becomes, dragging him down like an oversized, soaked poncho. Despite all of the superhero’s shortcomings, Wardian manages to flop across the line in record
time. For Wardian, there is no end in sight. The careers of marathon runners can extend into their sixth and seventh decades, and anyway the 37- year- old, who has had no real injury problems, has too much left to accomplish. He wants to set personal bests in every distance. He wants to win an individual gold medal in the 100k World Championships. He wants to run the fastest transit of the Panama Canal. In the world of running, the only limits are the ones you impose upon yourself. It is midday and Wardian has taken his lunch break to go on the ultimate D.C. sightseeing tour. He meets a friend and they start off at a comfortable pace. They circle the large Iwo Jima monument; they pass the White House — talking constantly of politics, family, friends and places to eat. They glide past the Washington Monument, the Capitol, the Air and Space Museum. Two runners match them stride for stride as they jog along the length of the Reflecting Pool, rippling alongside in perfect synchronization. They run by decades of history; the Holocaust Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian all fade in their wake. Wardian knows the route well. It is populated, but there is plenty of room to run on the wide paths. The pair crosses into West Potomac Park where the famous cherry blossoms are just beginning to dot the sky with their bright pink buds. The scene is serene, interrupted only by occasional chatter and the sound of footfalls. The wind is light and the water calm. And Wardian keeps running.
Wardian races in countless ultramarathons but still lkes to show his personality, competiting for the world record as Spiderman Photos courtesy of Mike Wardian
Inauthentically Me Perception of ethnicity, identity, and “Othering” Jordana Jarrett
Her brown eyes stare ahead with intensity. Bright pink bangs gently sweep across her concentrated face. Her defined eyebrows bend as she recalls a moment from her childhood. A moment when she felt different. As a young girl, she walked down the streets of Detroit, Michigan. The city was vastly different from her hometown of San Antonio, Texas, especially when it came to racial diversity. She cupped her hand in her father’s, her brother walking by their side and they strolled to the store together to buy pan dulce, a Mexican pastry, and tacos. Her mind drifted with thoughts of the scrumptious dessert but quickly focused on something different as a black man approached her and her father and brother and began speaking in Spanish. She didn’t realize she was expected to know Spanish until that moment. The man looked at her father, an expectant look on his face and they briefly met each other’s gaze. “Oh, sorry.” The man finally understood. Despite being Mexican-American, they did not speak Spanish. “I remember thinking, ‘That black man knows better Spanish than me,’” she said. “Now I realize that he was probably Latino, but the idea of a Black Latino was ‘foreign’ to me.” Now at the age of 19, Cöelis Mendoza is not only used to being identified as “foreign” but also having her ethnicity questioned. While living in Detroit, the only common language was English, but when Cöelis moved back to San Antonio, her lack of Spanish fluency made her an outsider. Even in her family, the adults would speak Spanish. This made her feel like an
outsider once again but she said she saw Spanish as a separate part of their identity. But despite her own definition her racial identity, Cöelis’ peers in the fourth grade labeled her as a “white girl” because she did not fulfill their expectations of what it meant to be a Mexican-American. “Because I didn’t speak Spanish, I wasn’t Mexican enough and because I was brown, I wasn’t American enough...I always had that kind of duality to me that never really met,” Cöelis said. Cöelis’ duality to her identity caused her to feel separated from her predominately Mexican-American community in San Antonio. Because of this, her new label became the “other”—someone not entirely connected to them. Her hometown caused Cöelis to internalize the idea of what it looked like or meant to be a certain race or ethnicity. Since the majority of the population on the Southside of San Antonio is MexicanAmerican, she did not interact much with other Latinos until college. “It wasn’t until I came to Ithaca that I realized Dominicans, Cubans, Brazilians... pretty much any Latino could be any color,” Cöelis said. Still, people often fall into the same mindset that certain races can only look and act a certain way. As a result, people of color who do not match this preconceived criteria are seen as unusual and unable to fit into the stereotypical assumptions for their race and ethnicity. Ultimately, people like Cöelis are seen as ethnically inauthentic. Cöelis often endured comments that reflected false assumptions of her racial background.
One day, as she attended a meeting at a Quaker church with her best friend and father, a few members approached her. While talking, a couple looked at Cöelis and asked her a curious question. “Are you Malaysian or some sort of Southeast Asian?” “No, I’m Mexican-American,” Cöelis said. “Oh. Well, we adopted two Malaysian daughters last year and you have similar features.” Cöelis has not only had to encounter judgments and perceptions of what specific ethnicities physically look like, but has also had to decide where she stands within American society’s standard of beauty. This became complicated because her race, often mistaken for others, sometimes symbolizes multiple meanings to those who don’t know exactly what her background is. “When I was about 15, my neighbor’s ex-wife was visiting and asked me what my ethnicity was, so I told her MexicanAmerican and she said, ‘Oh, but you’re so pretty,’” Cöelis said. Responses such as this are not only ignorant, but also place women of color— in this case Mexican American women—in a category separate from the definition of beauty. Since Cöelis did not fit the woman’s perception of what Mexican-American women look like, she was perceived as not only a different ethnicity, but pretty too. Last year, Cöelis sat in the dining hall at Ithaca College with a friend, laughing and enjoying her company. It had been a good day and she decided to put a lot of care and time into styling her then-long brown hair. Her positive day darkened quickly
“Because I didn’t speak Spanish, I wasn’t Mexican enough and because I was brown, I wasn’t American enough...I always had that kind of duality to me that never really met.”
though as a boy approached her and her friend. She remembered meeting him the previous day and expected him to greet her. He did, but not in the way Cöelis was expecting. “Have I seen you before?” he asked. “Yes, we just met the other day,” Cöelis said. “Oh wow. I didn’t even recognize you because of your hair. The other day I thought you were Southeast Asian or Malaysian or Vietnamese.” He paused. “Today you look Mexican.” Despite frequently enduring people’s ignorance regarding her ethnicity, each new comment or question elicits the same frustration and anger as the last. “When they learn what I am, there’s always a little ‘oh,’” Cöelis said. The disappointment at the reality of her ethnicity pushes her towards short-lived anger at the least but more than that a painful assessment in which Cöelis questions who she is.
Regardless of whether comments are intended to be compliments or not, they function to belittle Cöelis and assign her the label of “other” and inauthentic to her race. This “othering” is directly linked to the assumption that whiteness is the norm against which other races are measured. People who make these comments are often unaware of the level of ignorance saturating their words. Cöelis feels this happens because whiteness has become the dry-erase board upon which anything can be used or created. As a result of the acceptance of whiteness as the norm, people of color are not allowed the same flexibility for their identities as their white counterparts. “If you were to walk into a classroom and see a green dry-erase board, people believe there are only certain colors you can use, only certain characteristics that can be given to that green board,” Cöelis said.
Photos by Megan Blarr
Rhymes with Mufasa An Ithaca College student grapples with identity in a different culture
Article and photography by Steph Primavera Life can’t get much better than a semester in the south of Spain. My sophomore year I signed up for a program in Alicante, where palm trees line the tiled streets and an ancient castle keeps watch high above the city and the sea. My first few weeks there I sipped sangria by the sea and salsa danced each night away with some help from Shakira. At the discotecas, the other American girls and I would wait together for one of the European men to ask us to dance, since they all moved so well compared to the boys back home. One night a handsome, dark boy approached me and introduced himself. At first, I had no idea what he was saying because I could not hear a thing in the packed club. Eventually I made out, “RHYMES WITH MUFASA, LIKE THE LION KING”. This is how I met my ex-boyfriend, Mustafa, in a packed club in Alicante, Spain, where I was studying abroad. I couldn’t hear a thing and “Mustafa” is not a common name back home. I certainly wasn’t in Ithaca anymore. I grew up in Wrentham, Massachusetts, an upper-middle class town where everyone mows their lawns on Sundays and shops in the organic aisle. In school, I learned my multiplication tables, why Romeo loved Juliet and all about the Civil Rights Movement. Every February my fellow students and I listened to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and our parents and teachers reminded us that discrimination was a very bad thing. Not that it mattered; in Wrentham almost everyone is white and the chance of witnessing discrimination against a minority is almost nonexistent.
Even back then I would have told you I was sheltered, but I never realized how sheltered I actually was. I thought that because racism and discrimination were not prevalent in my world, then they could not be that serious of a problem anywhere else. Obviously there are still extremists who hold onto their racist views, but I thought their numbers were slowly diminishing with the newer generations. I especially never considered how others perceived my own race. When someone asked me what I “was”, I’d tell them Italian and Polish. I never really gave much thought to what I really was: an American upper-middle class white girl. I thought this way through college and even into my time in Europe, until Mustafa came along. Before Mustafa, I spent my first few weeks in Spain with my American friends. We went out in big groups and let the club promoters dictate where we spent our nights. It was an absolute blast, but I was still spending a lot of time with a lot of people just like me. Unless they were trying to get us into their clubs, the Spaniards and other Europeans left us to ourselves. Slowly, I discovered that their reclusiveness from us was partially due to how Europeans consider themselves racially different from Americans. While many Europeans are of Anglo-Saxon ancestry and are considered “white”, Americans are a very different type of “white”. This is because Americans are mutts. Our ancestors span the globe and the present generation has no right to call themselves “Italian”, “Irish”, or any other nationality that our great-great grandparents have actual claim to. It was a Polish girl who
first brought me to this understanding. When we met and I discovered that she was from Poland, I told her I was Polish, too. She then asked what part of Poland my parents were from, to which I told her it was actually my great-great grandmother who lived in Poland. She laughed because I wasn’t Polish; I was American. It’s no secret that Americans are not popular in other parts of the world. We are thought of as selfish and obnoxious, especially the tourists. That does not mean I found Europeans unwilling to befriend me; they are always happy to meet someone who breaks the American stereotype. However, I unknowingly stayed in my comfort zone with the other Americans and I never went out of my way to meet anyone different or new. That all change when Mustafa came into the picture. He swept me off my feet right away, and no wonder — Mustafa was a dark, handsome and well dressed bartender who was also very well known in the city. He was born in Morocco but raised in the Canary Islands. Mustafa spoke about seven different languages and he picked up his English on the streets while working as a club promoter. I had never even met a Muslim before, and all of a sudden I was dating one. I could hardly believe he wanted to go out with me, and it was all our American friends could talk about. However, my Spanish host mother soon checked my excitement when she gave me some very stern warnings. The fact that Mustafa was moro, or Muslim, was incredibly disconcerting to her. She told me that all Moorish men treat their women badly, and that he might
try to use and manipulate me because I was an American. This shocked me. I already knew Mustafa to be a sweet and kind person, especially towards me. I had grown very close with my host mother and thought of her as a very sensible person, but she could not be talked out of her concern over Mustafa. I later learned that the Spanish dislike for the Moors has been around for a long time. The Moors were a group of Muslims from northern Africa that controlled all of Spain and the Iberian Peninsula for hundreds of years, until Queen Isabella I and her husband King Ferdinand II drove them out in 1492. After that followed years of religious and cultural intolerance, and even in present day, the Spanish opinion of Muslims has never been rectified. This astonished me considering over 50 years have passed in the United States since the Civil Rights Movement, but back home I never noticed racial discrimination. Yet once I started dating Mustafa, I noticed it everywhere. Spanish people would watch us walking together, and you could tell it bothered some of them, especially the older people. I was a blonde American, someone they did not like that much in the first place, dating a Muslim. This made them dislike both of us even more. Once, we were even refused service at a café. We had entered hand-in-hand and asked for a table. The old man who owned the café scowled and would not look either of us in the eye, even though I had been in the same café the day before with a group of American friends. After a second inquiry about a table, we were told that he did not have an open table for us, even though there were quite a few in plain sight. I was infuriated but Mustafa just smiled and led me away; he was used to this. In the United States, the younger generation is much more willing to look past stereotypes. Mustafa was a successful club promoter and bartender who many Spanish and European people loved and cared about. Once in a while a slur or discriminatory remark would slip in front of us, but the person would promptly apologize and Mustafa would not think anything of it. He surrounded himself with good people, and soon his people became my people too. These new friends were unlike anyone I knew back home. As I became more involved with Mustafa I found myself spending less and less time with my American friends. Who could blame me when Mustafa surrounded me with people from all over the world? It seemed each one had something new to teach me. Therese from Sweden taught
me her language while we tanned together on the beach. My favorite Argentinean, Matias, taught me everything there was to know about the greatest futbol player in the world, Lionel Messi, his fellow Argentinean. This list goes on and on; by the end of my time in Spain I had friends from over 30 different countries. I learned so much from each of them, but the most important lessons were how they saw me and other Americans. To the Spaniards and many other Europeans my race was “white American.” The traditional Spaniard is moreno – someone with very dark features and light skin. In Spanish culture moreno is their standard of beauty, such as blonde hair and blue eyes is thought of in America. I soon found that a few other nationalities had similarities in their looks and that they considered themselves a separate race, when before I would have considered all of them “white” like me. However, Europeans do not think they are like me at all, and they are very proud of that fact. It’s difficult to break down the social barrier Europeans put up against Americans, even with help. While Mustafa introduced me to all my new friends, they did not grant me their friendship instantaneously. I had to prove I was not the “dumb blonde” stereotype that they see in American movies or the obnoxious American tourists they encounter every day. For instance, I took my Spanish studies seriously so I could communicate with everyone in the common language. If anyone tried to insult me in Spanish slang, I threw it right back at them. Once I transcended the negative American stereotype, these people opened up and let me in. The more Spanish and European friends I made, the further their culture pulled me in and the further I tried to dissociate myself from my own “Americaness.” Even though my study abroad program ended, I decided to stay in Spain. I moved out of my Spanish host mother’s house and into an apartment with Therese and Matias. Mustafa helped get me a job at one of the most famous clubs in the city, and that’s how I started my life as a bartender in the south of Spain. This certainly was not an American experience, and once my American friends left I wanted nothing to do with any other Americans. I became a regular face on the club scene, working until sunrise and sleeping on the beach all day. Most people assumed I was Swedish like Therese, another well-known bartender in the city, and I let them think that. I never spoke in English unless it was to take an American student or tourist by surprise.
It was so strange to see how my world flipped. I watched the life I came from in the other Americans — it was hard to miss. They all talked so loudly that you knew exactly who and where they were on the beach once within 50 yards. Mustafa saw them as easy income; in the clubs where alcohol flowed so freely, Americans managed to drop hundreds of Euros a night. That used to be my life until Mustafa gave me another — one my American upper-middle class white parents were not exactly pleased with. I worked 50-hour weeks in a club where I had become a social asset; Mustafa had taught me how to befriend everyone and anyone from anywhere. This is something most American students studying abroad can only dream of doing. Now I’m back in the United States, at Ithaca College, and it’s hard to find the right words to tell people what happened to me during my time in Spain. I could be cliché and say that it completely changed me as a person, which it did. Or I could say that it was an eye-opening experience that I will value the rest of my life, which I will. But what I really want to tell everyone is that there is no end to what another human being can teach you. So put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone, because these are the lessons that are never over.
Calling a Spade a Spade John cycled through the streets of Haarlem, a city in The Netherlands rich with history. He wasn’t on a tour to see museums, but on his way to the dentist. John woke up that morning with an inflammation in his gums and immediately set an appointment for later that afternoon. He rode his bicycle past many renowned landmarks, but he was used to this, having lived there all his life. He was used to riding his bike, too, as it’s the preferred method of transportation in The Netherlands. Once he got to the dentist, he didn’t have to wait very long. The dentist drilled through one tooth to alleviate the swelling from the inflamed gums and then he put in a filling. After the procedure was complete, he prescribed John some antibiotics and received the usual admonishment: “Don’t forget to brush and floss more.” The procedure was quick and rather painless; the antibiotics would end up being filled for free, and the procedure would only cost John 25 euros. John has never really had to worry about not being able to pay for his medical visits. He stated that, like in the United States, he is covered by a private insurer but, in addition, the government of The Netherlands requires insurance coverage of all its citizens. According to a PBS article, “Comparing International Health Care Systems,” insurers in The Netherlands “can be either for-profit or non-profit, but are tightly regulated by the federal government, and are required to accept every resident in their coverage area, regardless of preexisting conditions.” The Netherlands went through a significant health care reform back in 2006 to give more people coverage. The article states that anyone under the age of 18 is insured for free and that “the government provides larger subsidies to insurers for participants who are sicker, elderly or have preexisting conditions. Tax credits are given to low income patients to help them purchase insurance.” It’s a different story in America. Over my spring break, I went to a dentist in New York where I spent more time working through insurance papers than I did get-
ting a quick filling. Although I felt healthier, I still had to pay almost $200 out of pocket for the procedure, which wasn’t as serious as John’s, and I luckily didn’t have to add medication on top of that. Many Americans are looking at other nations that seem to have managed well in the recent recession and are starting to ask: why? As we’ve seen with the Occupy Wall Street movement, more Americans are blaming things like corporations, Congress, and
“I don’t think any economy in the world today is pure anything,” he said. “Even in places you might think are purely communist there is some capitalism going on, and similarly even economies where you think it’s purely capitalist there are a lot of markets that aren’t free.” The US federal government will often step in and regulate in the case of a monopoly instead of allowing the market to be free to monopolize, as a capitalistic theory might suggest. Public works, such as national defense and welfare are funded by tax dollars and open to the general public so that is an area where capitalism doesn’t entirely take control. “[Because of this,] we can think of it as a spectrum where there are countries that are veering more towards capitalism or veering more toward communism or pure command economies,” Kacapyr said. Therefore, we can understand that the ‘United States of America’ and ‘capitalism’ are not entirely equivalent with each other. Because of the evident aspects of socialism in the United States, it’s important to look at its definition. According to Naeem Inayatullah, a professor in the politics department at Ithaca College, capitalism, like socialism, is not easy to fit into a neat box. “The idea of socialism is that you still have markets and you still have capital and you still have most of the things that exist under capitalism and under free market, except for that the decision making is done democratically and it’s done by the laborers. So that would be sort of the ‘full-on’ socialism, but there’s also all kinds of partial socialism. For example, the United States is one of the most socialized countries in the world. Anything that is not entirely controlled by the market can be considered socialist. So, for example, welfare is an aspect of socialism, minimum wage laws are aspects of socialism. The rules against children laboring are an aspect of socialism.” Inayatullah explains that these and many other aspects of socialism can exist simultaneously with markets and capitalism. The socialism many people think of
“As Americans, we pride ourselves in our freedom to own, buy and sell capital, but that isn’t who we are, it’s only an aspect of what we do.” the president while some think that the system is just broken. Could capitalism be failing? When many people hear “capitalism,” they might think of consumerism, money or perhaps the stock market, but it is actually a very complex system. Chairman of the economics department at Ithaca College, Professor Elia Kacapyr said, “I would define capitalism to be when markets are allowed to determine how resources are deployed through supply and demand. A more common way to say that would be ‘free markets.’ But
“Some think that the system is just broken.”
other people might refer to other things when they talk about capitalism such as property rights… [and] the right to own capital.” Understanding the definition of capitalism is important to understanding its goals and to determining whether or not it’s a failing system in America. However, defining a country’s system is not easy because, according to Kacapyr, no economy is 100 percent pure. There are always aspects of different economic theories in any system.
Separating ideologies in a mixed market By Nick Ruck
in the United States, such as what existed in the Soviet Union and Cuba, are more of declarations of trying to move away from markets, but they still operate with markets such as the black market and capitalistic international market. Such ideological overlap is so pervasive on a macro-level it’s no surprise that it manifests itself within the small business community as well — worker-owned businesses exist within the corporate structure. *** Asheville, North Carolina is similar to Ithaca, New York, except for the southern cooking and the many country radio music stations. It’s a city that accepts and welcomes new concepts and ideologies much like Ithaca welcomed a local currency called ‘Ithaca Hours.’ While living in Asheville, I would occasionally walk downtown to check out shops suggested by the locals. One such shop I found particularly interesting was the Firestorm Café. Filled with a wide selection of sandwiches made in front of the customer, snacks produced from locally grown food and left-wing literature, the shop was a local hotspot. According to their website, Firestorm Café was established in 2008 as a “worker-owned and self-managed business, [who] aim(s) to provide community space, critical literature and an alternative economic model based on cooperative, libertarian principles.” Besides selling organic, locally grown and fair trade food, they offer “underground and independently published” magazines, books and fanzines based on topics such as anarchism, activism, DIY, Earth and Animal Liberation, economics, politics, cookbooks and even children’s books. They’re also a non-profit business with a unique managing system. “Firestorm Café & Books is run without
bosses or supervisors, relying instead on a horizontal workplace,” they explain on their website. “Each worker-owner is responsible for both weekly shift work and a share of managerial duties. Decisionmaking is achieved using a formalized consensus process in which each participant has an equal voice. This cooperative environment creates a more empowering and enjoyable workplace while
storm Café, it may depend completely on the management, and seeing how they’ve been in business for four years, I’d say it’s working for them. Inevitably we must understand ideas so that we can make conclusions. We are in a race, not against other nations, but against ourselves. Perhaps not even as a nation, but as a world. We are racing for improvement; it’s the motivation for both individual and society’s achievements. We race into the future for hopes of a better tomorrow, so that not only our children have a fulfilling life, but our children’s children as well. Perhaps like John, people in the future won’t have to worry about affordable health care. But these ideas of economic systems don’t exist in their purest form, and there is no nation that embodies only one set of controlled or uncontrolled markets. We see nations work with a moderation of different economic ideas such as capitalism and socialism. We should look to other nations and seek to learn from what they manage to do better. When looking for improvement, whether individual or societal, we should measure up to a higher standard of ourselves.
Illustration by Karlem Sivira
strengthening the business itself.” But our original question lingers: is capitalism a failing system, a floundering idea? Perhaps it’s not the idea that’s broken, but the public’s false definition of the process. The United States isn’t 100 percent capitalist, but uses capitalistic ideas, much like any other country. As Americans, we pride ourselves in our freedom to own, buy and sell capital, but that isn’t who we are, it’s only an aspect of what we do. Similarly, socialism isn’t the downfall of empires; it’s an intellectual tool we use to try to make society work better. Like Fire-
“This cooperative environment creates a more empowering and enjoyable workplace while strengthening the business itself.” 11
Is green industry possible? By Jessica Santos
Comet Skateboards is tucked away in the Commons, past a slim door and up a flight of worn, creaking stairs. Their store is small, but with a minimalistic design that compliments the homey feeling of the older building perfectly. The walls lined with skateboards are all given even space between each other, organized by series. The skateboards are made of sanded, smooth wood and are each decorated with a screen-printed work of art. One, the “Grease Shark”, portrays a shark being doused in lime green grease dripping out of a paint can; another, the “Shred 35”, marks a peace sign-flashing yeti spray painting the sky. Walking into the store, the customer would never guess that Comet Skateboards makes all of their own products on-site. In the back of the store, an employee diligently paints designs on each board. The layer of wood painted on is incredibly thin, and it sits, uncut – not yet in the shape of the skateboard. The table has a “lid” which comes down to cover the board with a stencil. The employee leans forward, reaches to the end of the lid and, with one clean stroke, brushes across the paint, filling in the slight openings in the stencil, the board absorbing it below. Before, the paint on the wood was orange and black, with the beginnings of tentacles and eyeballs emerging from the half developed creature. After a few strokes, the eyeballs and tentacles are outlined in a dark brown. He moves the excess paint to the edge, puts another piece of wood underneath the layer, and repeats this process. “We’re really blurring the line between art and manufacturing when you have something as textual as this,” said Jason Salfi, the owner and co-founder of Comet Skateboards. “Something that is like a screenprinted, fine art poster that could sell for $50, but we’re selling it on a piece of CNC crafted hardwood for $120. It’s kind of insane the amount of actual handwork and art that goes into these boards.” Comet Skateboards are handcrafted individually in the back of
the store. Unlike other board companies, Comet Skateboards uses sustainably harvested wood, water-based inks, and a safe screen-printing process, making them an environmental skateboard manufacturer. “We first started doing manufacturing for other brands,” Salfi said. “We thought we could create a sustainable skateboard, using sustainable hardwoods, water-based coatings and inks and glues, instead of what was being used at the time [in 1997].” Although this wasn’t a mainstream option in 1997, the company quickly became popular after 2005, when “green” and “sustainability” became commonly used buzzwords. Since then, the company has taken off, and expanded their practices as they’ve grown. “We’re doing it with materials that are lasting longer but also, in the life of that material, use less impactful materials to be created,” Salfi said. “So the glues are formaldehyde-free, the coatings that we use are water-based, and don’t have any of the harmful glycols that any of the other waterbase-coatings have, and they last longer. They’re engineered to be safe for the worker and safe for the environment. The inks that we use are certified for young people in preschools. We’ve come up with techniques that allow us to use these really safe materials in very industrial settings to create a product that cannot be surpassed in the marketplace.” The company also moved from California to Ithaca, New York in order to be closer to their main suppliers who are located primarily on the Northern East Coast. However, Salfi is quick to point out that capitalism is not the only answer to environmental and social issues. “There is really no 100% green product out there,” Salfi said. “And we really don’t like to see our rhetoric get ahead of what our action is. I think that is important – there are a lot of companies out there that try to inspire people to buy their product by hitting on one element of why their product is good or why their product is environmentally conscious or socially just, but
they’re not really answering any of the bigger, harder questions. I think that’s a really dangerous thing to do in a marketplace, to dangle that sort of inspiration but not really follow up with it. It rewards the wrong people and it allows marketing to get in the way of solutions as opposed to being part of the solution.” But a balance is necessary. Just as environmental issues cannot be solved only by individuals, governments, or organizations, it is just the same with corporations. Instead, all of these units have to work together in order to produce the most effective change. “The problems that we’re facing cannot be solved by government or non-profits alone,” Dominic Frongillo, the Councilor and Deputy Town Supervisor of Caroline, New York said. “We do need entrepreneurs – it’s entrepreneurs that can think about how to develop solutions and bring them to scale. And if there is a time in history when we need solutions being brought to scale, it’s now.” “Capitalism has its limitations in creating a robust civil society,” said Salfi. “But it’s what we have right now, so we have to embrace it to move it and change it and ultimately see it evolve into something different. I don’t love it or hate it — it is what it is. I see it as a system that we live in and I am not powerless to make the world a better place because of it. If you move money in positive directions, you’re going to make positive change happen.” However, some experts on the political economy — like Naeem Inayatullah, a professor from the Politics department at Ithaca College Capitalism — would argue that capitalism is inherently at odds with environmentalism. At this time, the process of creating products uses natural resources, thereby interfering and managing the environment. By nature, capitalism does the opposite. “The foundational difference [between capitalism and the environment] is that capitalism and the theory of capitalism does not and cannot believe in the principle of limited resources,” said Inayatullah. “[Capitalism] believes that human creativity is an infinite resource; it does not believe in the conservative approach to intervening in nature. It believes in an interventionist
approach. Creative destruction, that’s what human beings are all about.” Despite this ideological difference, some companies, like Comet Skateboards, have attempted to merge both concepts. Comet Skateboards has attempted to forge environmentally friendly business by being a founding Benefit Corporation. B-Labs, the creator of the Benefit Corporation concept, is a nonprofit organization that provides quantifiable testing to license companies based on their social awareness. In order to qualify for a certification, companies must take a test to see if their actions rank them highly enough to be considered as a B-Corp. Once certified, companies could mark their products, website and materials with the B-Corp logo so that consumers are able to set the companies apart from others. “The mission of B Labs is to harness the power of business to solve social and environmental problems,” says Nathan Gilbert, the Program Associate at B Labs. Initially, B Labs began by providing a certification process for companies. Companies would take a test to see if their actions ranked them high enough to be considered a Benefit Corporation. Once certified, companies could mark their products, website and materials with the B-Corp logo so consumers could set the companies apart from the rest. Since then, they have also expanded to fight for legislation that will make it easier for businesses to run as Benefit Corporations, as well as providing accountability for these companies. Although B-Corps are only recognized by governments in nine states, that number is likely to increase as B-Labs continue to advocate for a better corporate system. “Why didn’t we think of this a century ago?” said Frongillo. “A lot of the problems we’re facing now are because of these pathological, sociopath corporations. If a person were to say, ‘I am going to go maximize profit and I don’t care about my neighbors or our community or our future’, we would call them a sociopath. Clinically, a sociopath. And that’s what we’ve basically codified the rules for corporations to be. It’s literally insane.” Whether that insanity can be conquered by regulations and financial incentives remains to be seen. However, Comet Skateboards and B-Labs are attempting to find a middle ground toward the difference between capitalism and environmentalism. In doing so, they are making decisions that are more mindful of their environmental impact while conducting business in a capitalistic society. “We’ve been able to set ourselves apart from the pack because our boards look better,” said Salfi. “And they look better because they’re environmentally sound.”
All photos by Jessica Santos
e p o r t h
by Lucy Walker
Lucy Walker wants to tell stories for a living, but her latest project has forced her to ask: whose background entitles them to do that?
I am in the process of trying to write a docudrama about Felicia Pearson, a Baltimore actress formerly featured on “The Wire.” It’s difficult. Why? Because of what l I left out to try to make that first sentence sound unbiased. She’s black, murdered another girl at age fourteen, and was arrested last spring in a drug raid. To pretend my initial sentence is the whole story would be a total lie. But when I add in these additional details, which are what made me want to dramatize her life, I face a dilemma that’s giving me scruples. Can
I, an upper-middle class Caucasian teenager, tell her story in an unbiased way? Or if not unbiased, fair? What is fair for a murderer who seemed to redeem her life for a while? Most of all, should she get to decide if I tell her story? But let’s ditch “unbiased writing” because we all know it’s hopeless. Imagine for a moment that the vast world of storytelling is a Great Depression-era circus. Fables, gossip, comic books, tweets, and newspapers are just some of the clowns, vaudevillians, musical performers, freaks,
and exotic animals. The performances change with a new location or different weather, and each audience member sees a different show depending on their seat. I’m no circus performer but if I was, I imagine all the illusions and confusion would blur together. I might mix up the impossibly tall man and the fire-swallowing woman. Or visits to Chicago and Baltimore. I could mix up what people think of the circus without even realizing. Here is the danger in telling other people’s stories, whether the stories took place in Baltimore
or a circus tent. In real life, I create theatre, write, and talk loquaciously. With all this, there’s a major (like the-elephant-just-crushedthe-tent major) chance that I will describe people I do not completely understand. What happens if I get a detail wrong? I harm someone’s personal life or career. Insert the weighty and unclear delineations of race? Storytelling and perspective become a hotbed for political correctness, bigotry, and bias either way. *** I directed Anna in the Tropics last semester for IC Teatro, a student theatre group dedicated to producing Latino or Spanish language works. I struggled at first, but then realized I didn’t need to be Latino to relate to the characters. These Cuban cigar rollers from 1929 Florida aren’t foreign. Their storytelling and humanity in the face of ongoing oppression and traumatic events make this tale universal. The themes of racial inequality and cultural tradition were still very important but, at least at that moment, it seemed appropriate to not have an allCuban cast. (Plus, Ithaca College does not have a population of Cuban actors.) As we brought Conchita, Palomo, and the other characters to life, we all recognized what they felt, regardless of our own races. However, this cannot always be the case. At Ithaca College, plays often wrestle with this storytelling conflict. The issue has cropped up several times on campus around the topic of los desaparecidos, or “the disappeared.” IC Teatro has produced two shows about the tens of thousands of people kidnapped, tortured, and most likely murdered during Argentina’s Guerra Sucia (Dirty War) in the 1970s and 80s. Two years ago, Información para extranjeros depicted the torture through a series of vignettes. Last month, Teléfono portrayed the struggle of grandparents who lost their only surviving relative to the tragedy. Some of the cast and crew are from Latino countries or of Latino descent but none are from Argentina. The group’s advisor, Professor Annette Levine, does however study the theatre and art of Argentina. The Department of Theatre Arts is also trying to tell the story of “the disappeared.” Professor Susan Jonas is adapting a script from the novel Imagining Argentina. Professor Norm Johnson just directed a deviated work based on the same novel. There’s no one in the cast or creative team of either project from Argentina, but both have been supported by major dramaturgical research. To me, neither being a member of a particular ethnicity, one that encompasses
millions of people and dozens of nationalities, nor having years of dramatic training matters greatly. Neither “qualifies” these people over anyone else to share an experience they never had. But if they can empathize with the suffering of the “ thousands of disappeared, their families, and the affected nation, that’s what matters. There seems to be no reason they should not share this underrepresented part of South America’s history.
cast members,” said Naylor. “The look on her face— obviously, she was acting— but the look on her face was like, ‘Why are you doing this to us?’ And I was like, ‘I’m sorry! It’s blocking!’ I just felt so bad. I would never do that personally.” Hairspray has been produced .” all over Maryland since the producers began to license amateur shows last year. The productions may make it seem like race is a bygone issue in the area, as if my home state is somehow “post-racial.” But in “the Free State,” with the sixth highest percentage of black citizens in the nation, the greatest anywhere outside of the deep south, there are still awful and obvious inequalities regarding public education, police treatment, and political power. Putting on this uplifting musical may make us feel better. Yet is it really helping to open up any communication? Is it portraying Baltimore truthfully? It’s clear that I’m not the only one struggling with deeply entrenched attitudes. Ithaca College, Baltimore, and I all wish we could address race without bias, but none of us seem quite sure how to go about it.
Ithaca College, Baltimore, and I all wish we could address race without bias, but none of us seem quite sure how to go about it
*** But the conflict of perspective doesn’t involve only stories from faraway lands, but also from my home state. Emily Naylor, a sophomore drama major at Ithaca College, grew up in an area of Maryland where being white, as she is, makes one a racial minority. Her friends are black, Latino, Indian, and occasionally Jewish. She did clash once with a high school teacher who targeted her as the only white girl in his classroom. But her mother was glad for her not to live in a bubble with a “country club crowd.” Her best friends in high school were a group of five black girls. There was a gap, but it didn’t matter until she got to Ithaca College, where her friends label one voice she speaks in as “ghetto.” “[My group of friends] definitely influenced my personality. And I think I influenced theirs. But I don’t know if it had to do with race,” Naylor said. “Take away race, would their personalities be the same? Probably not.” She’s aware that she experienced an unusual racial dynamic. It was especially poignant this summer when she acted in Prince George’s Summer Teen Theatre’s production of Hairspray. The musical revolves around Tracy, a new dancer on The Corny Collins Show, a television program in 1950’s Baltimore. The newbie causes a stir with her support of racial integration. As Brenda, a pregnant featured dancer who supports segregation, Naylor played a character with whom she has little in common. The difference hit her during a rehearsal as the cast practiced the end of the first act. At this point in the story, a group of black community activists protest their exclusion from the show and a fight breaks out. “There was this one moment when I was fighting with one of the African American
*** I promise I am not preaching from some pulpit held up by the white savior industrial complex. I am from a family of white Anglo-Saxon protestants, so while I get referred to as a certain sort of bug, I don’t feel misrepresented in terms of race often. But through a different part of my identity, I understand what it feels like to have my story told— or stolen— and not know who should be able to say what it is or how to tell it. I know how it feels to be misrepresented and helpless to change it. A major part of my story is my father’s suicide five years ago. It transformed my life and viewpoint, but I don’t know if I’ll ever write about it for any public forum. When you insert a personal experience into your art, you forfeit the boundaries of privacy and it becomes a subject open to criticism and critique. Last spring, a good friend of mine from high school wrote a play about suicide. The show has been produced twice at her college and will go to a festival in London this summer. I’m happy for her to be doing so well as a playwright. The script really is Photos by Lucy Walker
very good. And as a creator of theatre, I could never ask her to edit anything major, as it would destroy the story’s arc. I could not thank her enough for writing a play including suicide as more than a dramatic device. Mainstream media and the arts rarely address suicide as more than a footnote, though the World Health Organization reports that 3,000 people kill themselves every day. She funneled something important from her own life into a medium in which she excels. That is, to me, what makes someone a true artist. But the play also totally offended me. In my opinion, it tells the wrong story. It presents what other people think a family dealing with suicide experiences, not the reality. The experience of losing a parent to suicide creates a complex, dangerous grief that can be empathized with, but not understood second-hand. Additionally, while my family was only one of several inspirations, the characters match my mother, brother, and myself in gender, interests, and general age. The teenage female character, a composite of the playwright, her best friend, and myself, comes off as incredibly petty and unkind— not a reflection anyone would like immortalized in a play. The character’s lines in the climactic scene sound near verbatim to impassioned statements I made in high school. It felt like both a betrayal of trust and complete exploitation. Most of all, it puts me in the awkward position of not knowing whether I should allow her to tell my story, or whether I
even have the power to give her that permission. I believe strongly in empathy as a bridge to relate our separate human experiences. Theatre encourages empathy through Aristotelian mimesis, or imitation, which creates characters in whom we see ourselves, but using someone’s true story as creative inspiration puts friend-collaborators in uncomfortable situations. *** Nonfiction theatre, as seen in The Vagina Monologues, Working, and The Laramie Project, has found a power in live performance stronger than documentary filmmaking. But it brings up questions of ethics in terms of recording and sharing stories. The people who contributed to those shows knew their comments might enter the public sphere. It’s not just Pearson, Cuban cigar rollers, the disappeared in Argentina, blacks in Baltimore, or my family. There are more people with stories worth sharing that could be distorted. Realistic accounts of historical events written by people of color (know any besides Spike Lee?) are not produced in mainstream film or theatre for fear of a lack of appeal to “a greater audience,” while fictional tales, featuring a white hero saving minorities, receive commercial and critical success and awards (Remember the Titans, Glory Road, The Help...). Besides storytellers fighting to make their voices heard, not every person can articulate a personal experience, and they
Walker, far right, with her cast from Anna in the Tropics. Her experience directing the play raised questions about her right to tell other people’s stories.
may not want to. Maybe I am greedy to hope they be told at all, but does the fear of bias mean no one should share anyone else’s yarns? I don’t know the answers to all the questions I’m bringing up, but this one seems clear: no. I also know that while writing, I have been unsure about what is appropriate to say in regards to race. It’s not specifically because I’m a WASP that I am uncertain of how to tell stories involving race. It’s simply because I have not experienced being any other race, in the same way I will never know what it’s like to be short, male or asthmatic. Just as American journalists reporting on wars in the Middle East, biographers interviewing celebrities, and Twitter users abusing lonely souls never know all the sides before they choose their words. No one can understand or include every perspective. But with any perspective regarding race, which is truly social assumptions attached to a few physical traits, what’s said tends to make a major— positive or negative— impact in our society due to the subject’s weight. If a story is a tightrope walker and the truth is the tiny bucket of water a hundred feet below to jump into, the odds are pretty clear. Perhaps the truth is not what we should be after. Maybe the story should be exaggerated or slanted because, honestly, an unbiased story is impossible. I will not live the same life as Felicia Pearson, but that doesn’t mean I should not even try to tell her story.
Not Another Hemp Article By Sam Goldman
“You have to face up to the truth,” said Rick Tarantelli, an employee at Ithaca Hemp Company who has been with the store since 1995. “Nobody who has tried hemp has ever been against it once they learn about it.” I knew about marijuana long before I learned anything about industrial hemp through my participation in Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a grassroots group of students working to change the counterproductive policies of the War on Drugs. At meetings we would watch documentaries exposing the misconceptions about marijuana and other drugs, and I realized the extent to which propaganda defined my knowledge of intoxicants. Studying America’s cannabis laws brought me to a source that mentioned industrial hemp. I was not clear to me at first what industrial hemp was. Mainstream media writers would begin their articles with a punch line about marijuana. It was a struggle for me to cut through the swaths of such journalism that place hemp in a dangerous position by constantly recycling the same article: “Let’s smoke some hemp, man.” Eventually, however, I was able to find reputable sources, such as Jack Herer’s “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” and learned about the history of global hemp production and its eventual condemnation under marijuana laws. Yet this was not as readily available as the inept, laughable sources I had initially found online. If hemp stays in this realm of light journalism, in which the writer barely delves into the practical implications of cannabis prohibition, the dire need to reevaluate our laws concerning hemp only becomes more pressing. Our founding fathers grew hemp on their properties, and, according to David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, they even wrote drafts of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. Henry Ford began experimenting with hemp fiber for car parts and oil for biofuel and even produced a fully functional model in 1941. Our government subsidized a program called Hemp for Victory during World War II, in which Americans were encouraged to grow hemp to help with the war effort, as we no longer received our supply from our then-enemy, Japan. The United States Drug Administration even printed on hemp paper for some time, touting the benefits of its usage. “Hemp was the first cash crop in Tomp-
kins County,” Tarantelli said, “There used to be a rope factory industry on the lake.” Racist propaganda against Mexican immigrants and black jazz musicians helped create a thriving “industry that evolved around prohibition,” according to Tarantelli, involving prison and police profiteering. Eventually, advocates for the timber industry banded together to stamp out competition from the burgeoning hemp paper industry, which would have saved millions of acres of old forest growth and irreplaceable ecosystems. Advocates for the growing petroleum industry also helped America evade further research into hemp biofuels. While the growth of industrial hemp is currently prohibited on American soil, this plant has incredible potential to improve our bodily, economic, and environmental health if federal barriers to its growth are removed. Annual hemp production, being nontoxic and low-maintenance, with little need of water and no chemical sprays, could hasten the race to wean ourselves off of our addiction to oil, cotton, corn, and timber, virtually replacing all of the products we currently manufacture from these destructive industries. The political situation surrounding industrial hemp is the “tip of the iceberg of a much bigger system of inequality that underlies all of our society,” according to Ithaca College Sociology Professor Alicia Swords. “We’re disconnected from what is really the underlying cause,” she continues. “We have to study the world to know why it works the way it does and where we are going.” In order to understand the immense implications of America’s systemic corruption, we must realize that much of it results from the government-industrial ties that have been strengthening over the past century. Professor Swords goes on: “Investors will always control what we as a country produce unless we make a substantial change to the way we currently function as a country.” If investors decide to revoke their support for timber, oil, or even cotton for textiles or corn for food or biofuels, and instead financially back the hemp industry, then the “core issue of colonization,” the systemic promotion of inequality, greed, and injustice will still prevail. Because there is currently no journalistic standard for addressing hemp in the mainstream media, there is Photo by Jessica Santos
therefore no indication to even our most learned people that the information presented is worth serious consideration and further research. If such uninformed discourse persists, industrial hemp will not likely see its due revival come to pass in America by those in a place to educate the next generation of young professionals about key issues facing our country. This shift also requires hemp supporters to position themselves in such a way that journalists perceive them as viable candidates for obtaining information on the movement. We must present ourselves as knowledgeable experts who are able to speak eloquently to our promotion of hemp. We must not let the media cover us as hippies or potheads; we must be directly, politely outspoken against such angles. Although some of us may believe in free love and marijuana, we must keep our mission simply stated and consistent, furthering journalistic inquiry into the movement. We need appropriate coverage if we expect our activism to go anywhere. After all, as Professor Swords said, “all movements that have succeeded created their own media representation.” If we do not gain the respect of the mainstream media, encourage them to report on the lack of education about cannabis laws in our country, and educate the public about this strange legal situation, we will not see hemp laws change. We must take it upon ourselves, whether as journalists or as interviewees, to create a mainstream investment in hemp in order to make real socioeconomic change. We can no longer maintain this prohibition culture if we want to leave a better world for the next generation. This economic system, dependent upon finite and toxic resources, simply cannot sustain itself for much longer.
Back in Time:
The race for an Alzheimer’s cure By Megan Blarr
“Can you draw a clock for me, Dick?” Dr. Kinkel handed Grandpa a small sheet of paper and a pencil. Mom and Aunt Kathy stood nearby, waiting for him to draw, or at least try. But he just sat there, staring at that blank piece of paper. “Come on, Dad, you can do it,” Mom urged. “Just draw a clock.” After what seemed like a lifetime of blank stares and confusion, the doctor
us and walked me quickly down the long hallway, past rows of identical dark red doors. It wasn’t until we reached the end and turned the corner that the shouting stopped. We had just brought Grandpa to his new apartment at Amberleigh, a local retirement community. Actually, we tricked him into coming. After months of begging Grandpa to move, we had no choice but to force him into a new home. Aunt
ago, we realized he couldn’t remember simple things anymore. His pillbox lay untouched on the counter, so he wasn’t taking his meds. We unplugged his stove, so we were sure he wasn’t cooking. And he wore the same clothes for days until his undershirts turned yellow around the neck and armpits. I hadn’t hugged Grandpa in weeks because of the smell. He needed help. “Oh that’s bullshit,” Grandpa yelled.
Kathy had taken Grandpa out to lunch while Uncle Rich, Aunt Debbie, Mom and I packed up his furniture—a big blue recliner, an old dresser, a TV and a stereo so he could listen to his music. We packed his clothes, his bedding and, of course, plenty of picture frames and brought them to the apartment. As if staring at our smiling faces all day would make him happy. When Aunt Kathy stepped into the freshly decorated apartment with Grandpa, his eyes grew wide staring at all of us standing among his things. Then, those big brown eyes narrowed. It was five against one. “Do you know where you are, Dad?” Uncle Rich asked. “Yeah, I think so. What are you trying to do?” “Well, we just feel for your own safety you should live here for a while,” Aunt Kathy said. Grandpa had been a widower for 11 years, living on his own. A few months
“I have my own home to live in. I’m not gonna live here!” That’s when Aunt Debbie led me out of the room and down the hall, one hand on my back urging me to walk faster. I was thirteen, and I was terrified of who Grandpa had become. The sweetest man I had ever known, now screaming and swearing at his family. This wasn’t my grandpa.
Photos courtesy of Megan Blarr decided to move on. “It’s OK, Dick,” he said, taking the paper and pencil. Grandpa looked down as the paper slipped out of his hands, then glanced up at the doctor. He smiled, reaching up to pat Kinkel’s shoulder. “I recognize you,” Grandpa said. “We were in the army together. You’re a real nice fella.” Grandpa believed the neurologist was an old friend from the air force. Even though Dr. Kinkel was only Mom’s age. Even though Grandpa had never met this man before in his life. It seemed somehow appropriate that he couldn’t draw a clock. Grandpa had lost his sense of time. My grandpa – Richard “Dick” Courtney – had Alzheimer’s.
“The sweetest man I had ever known, now screaming and swearing at his family. This wasn’t my grandpa.”
Aunt Debbie closed the door behind
June 2008 Mom stepped up to the large red door, pressing her ear to it. Straining to hear what was inside, she quietly turned her key in the lock and pushed the door open. “Dad?” Mom said, peeking into the room and knocking softly. Grandpa wasn’t there. Instead, he sat outside on his small patio in a white plastic chair, his back facing us through the window. It was a warm, sunny day and Grandpa loved being outside. We walked through the living room toward the heavy back door, which stood open. The screen door was shut, but as we got closer we could hear Grandpa
The Blarr family smiles for a photo Bassett Manor beside the forrest interior.
mumbling. He was talking to himself. “Dad?” Mom said again, pushing the screen door open. He looked up, confused at first, but then a smile stretched across his face. “Oh, hi there!” he said. “I was just talking to Warren. He told me he’s gonna come by to pick me and Jeannette up for lunch.” Mom and I looked at each other, both worried and heartbroken. His cousin Warren had been dead for 10 years. My grandma, Jeanette, died 14 years ago. Grandpa continued to get worse for the next four months. The paranoia caused him to stay locked in his room for days. Not eating the meals we had delivered to his room. Not letting the aide in to give him medicine. His Vitamin B-12 levels, which we thought might have contributed to his dementia, were sky high, so we knew a deficiency was not the problem. There wasn’t much else we could blame it on now. In October we were forced to face reality. Jim, another Amberleigh resident, found Grandpa outside one morning talking to an empty car. When Jim tried to get him to come back inside, Grandpa insisted that his old friend Gordy was there to drive him home. Grandpa had packed up some things: CDs, a toothbrush, a razor. He stayed there for hours, talking to the car. No one could get him inside. Just a few days later, we moved Grandpa a second time to the memory care unit at Bassett Manor—a place for people developing Alzheimer’s.
When we stepped through that forest, we found him sitting at the head of a long table, alone in a chair. His head hung down almost to his chest and I could tell he had lost some weight in his face, but he still had that big cozy belly. In the few months he’d been at Bassett Manor, Grandpa had begun to physically deteriorate, needing a walker to get around. Mom walked right over and sat down, placing a box of store-bought mini cupcakes in front of him. He was sleeping. “Happy birthday, Dad,” she whispered, leaning in to kiss his cheek. Grandpa opened his eyes slowly, but he didn’t look at her. He just sat there with his head hanging low staring at the table. This didn’t seem to upset Mom. By now she was growing somewhat used to it, or at least saving her tears for home. I hadn’t visited as often as Mom though, and this was the first time I’d seen Grandpa so depressed. “Happy birthday, Grandpa,” I said, kissing his other cheek and fighting back tears. No response. Mom opened the box of cupcakes and tried to get him to take one, but he didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Mom kind of shrugged and smiled at me, popping it in her mouth. I took her lead and did the same. After watching us eat a few, Grandpa lifted a shaky hand toward the box as if he wanted to try one too. Mom placed one on a napkin in front of him. Slowly, he picked it up and began to place it in his mouth, wrapper and all. “Dad, you have to take the wrapper off first,” Mom said laughing, taking the cupcake back and unwrapping it. The sweets seemed to cheer him up a little, but a few minutes later he went back to staring at the table. Occasionally he’d glance at us with sad, tired eyes. It was obvious he didn’t recognize us. “Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture of us?” Mom asked an aide. The woman smiled and took the camera as we struggled to get Grandpa to a wooden rocking chair by the window. We lowered him into the chair as gently
“Soon he was shaking with those big belly laughs we knew so well.”
March 23, 2009 Mom and I approached the door. On the “normal” side, it looked like any other door. White and clean. On the other side— the memory care unit, known as Liberty Lodge—the door disappeared. It was painted to blend in with the rest of the wall resembling a thick green forest. I always felt this was to confuse and prevent the residents from trying to escape.
Every 68 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. There are 5.4 million Americans living with it. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States; the only cause of death among the top 10 in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
as possible, but he wouldn’t look at the camera. He just sat there, staring at the floor with heavy eyes. After a few unhappy pictures, Mom said “Come on, Dad, smile for me” and gave him a loud smooch on the cheek. Grandpa’s eyes grew wide and he jumped slightly in his chair. Then, he smiled and started laughing. Mom and I took turns leaning in and giving him big, noisy kisses. Soon he was shaking with those big belly laughs we knew so well. “Wow, Dick, you’re one lucky guy!” the aide said. And she snapped the picture. June 2010 The nurses at Riverwood Nursing Home lifted Grandpa from his bed with a large belt that was placed around his back and belly and lowered him softly into his wheelchair. His legs and feet rested on thick yellow pieces of foam to offer some comfort. He hadn’t walked in almost a year. He’d forgotten how. By now his right foot had turned black from the infection, but we made sure he wore socks to cover it. In April, tests confirmed that a sore on Grandpa’s foot was actually MRSA, a staph infection that is very resistant to antibiotics. The antibiotics he was prescribed made him nauseous and he stopped eating, losing 12 pounds in a week. My grandpa was wasting away and we just had to sit by and watch. Mom wheeled Grandpa down the hall to the elevator while I walked beside his wheelchair, sometimes leaning over to put my hand on his shoulder or give him a kiss on the cheek. I pressed the combination on the keypad to unlock the back door and stepped outside. The sun was shining bright and hit Grandpa’s face as Mom wheeled him out on the patio. I walked backwards so I could still see him. Immediately, his mouth formed an “O” and his eyes grew big. “Wow!” he said. Mom and I stopped. This was the first word he’d been able to say in months. Grandpa had forgotten how to speak too. “You like the sun, Grandpa?” I asked, smiling. “It’s… gorgeous,” he said. We burst into laughter at the sound of his voice. It was as if he’d said his first word. We bragged about this one
moment for weeks. My grandpa said “gorgeous.” After taking turns wheeling him around the patio a few times, watching his face light up at birds and whispering I-loveyous in his ear, we pushed him over to a table under the shade. I took a plastic spoon and fed him chocolate ice creamscoop by scoop. With each small spoonful I’d open my mouth to show him what to do, as if I was feeding a baby. He smiled with every bite. Just a few days later, we visited Grandpa again. Mom and I met Aunt Kathy, Uncle Rich and Aunt Debbie at Riverwood. After sharing a few slices of pizza, we spread out large colored dominoes on a table outside Grandpa’s room to play a game of chickenfoot. We wheeled Grandpa over next to me so he could watch, even if he didn’t understand. The fact that there was a slight chance he might was good enough for us. “You can be on my team, Grandpa!” I said, patting his knee. And then, he smiled and winked at me. I felt like he knew me, even just for that moment. Throughout the game, I continued to look over at Grandpa, smiling and saying things like, “We’re gonna win!” Sometimes he’d smile back, and once more he winked. Later that night when we got up to leave, I leaned in to give him a hug goodbye. When I backed up, he looked me in the eye and began to speak. Or at least he tried. The words that came out were gibberish, but I could tell he actually believed he was telling me something. I nodded, pretending to understand. “I love you too, Grandpa.” July 10, 2010 I dipped the roller into the grayish tan paint and lifted it to the siding, trying not to drip too much on the cement. Mom, Dad and I were painting the
house — Mom and Dad worked on the front while I worked on the back, the part that only visitors would see. Our house had actually belonged to my great-grandparents… Grandpa’s mom and dad. They built it in the 1950s, and then my mom and dad decided to buy it after Great Grandma Ruth moved into a nursing home. As I grew older, it was kind of cool knowing that our humble ranch had always belonged to family. Originally, it was a blah bluish gray. A few years later, we painted it an almost orangey brown that looked like the color of rust. That wasn’t intentional—it just dried that way. This year, we’d finally decided to repaint it, to something more fresh, clean and new. The radio played in the garage so the three of us could listen while we painted. It was July 10th, just six days before my 19th birthday. I was usually excited for my birthday. But this year was different. A few days ago, Grandpa had taken a turn for the worse when none of us thought it could. He’d forgotten how to swallow and was now being fed through a tube—an IV pumping the necessary nutrients into his arm. And he was completely bedridden. So, we decided to paint our house. We felt helpless, taking turns the past few days sitting with Grandpa at the nursing home then sitting at our home taking everything in. Mom wanted to take her mind off things and she thought fixing up the house would be the perfect escape, something Grandpa was always happy about. He liked knowing we were taking care of his mom’s home, too. As I pushed the roller up and down along the siding, Bette Midler came on the radio singing “Wind Beneath My Wings.” I kept painting, trying to focus on making an even coat and filling in any cracks. When the song ended, the phone rang inside the house. I stopped painting and watched Mom pass slowly through the garage, turning down the radio as she stepped inside. Less than a minute later, she came back out. She didn’t need to say anything. Her face said it all. Grandpa had died. For so long, Grandpa had been moving backwards, lost in a world with no minute, hour or day. His time now stood still. And we could finally begin to move forward again.
By Sam McCann
A poet reclaims her experiences through her performance feels as though her work with the English for Speakers of Other Languages program—a requirement of one of her classes at New York University—was disrespectful of her Sudanese heritage. Despite her success as an English-language poet, she’s leery of privileging the tongue above others, about dismissing the people and cultures she loves as somehow lesser. For instance, she treasures her relationship with her grandfather, a man who speaks primarily Arabic and is “one of the smartest men I know.” How, then, could she continue to volunteer with people who treated those
“Cat,” Safia Elhillo repeats, gesturing to a picture on the worksheet spread across the table. She gulps her coffee before proceeding. “Apple,” is next. She guides her finger across the worksheet. Her student, an elderly woman, sounds the word out. She’s new to English, and struggles with a worksheet full of basic vocabulary. Together, she and Safia move down the page, encountering more and more new words. The work is tedious. After class, Safia feels frustrated at her own teaching methods. She wants to figure out a way to engage the old woman from a culture that reveres its elders, with something other than worksheets “aimed at kindergarten students.” However, when she goes back to the office and listens to the teachers she works with, she’s stunned by their attitude: they dismissively call the students “the illiterates” while chattering irreverently amongst themselves. *** The encounter left Safia disgusted. At 21, she’s a renowned poet (and an unabashed Wu-Tang Clan aficionado) ranked seventh in the Women of World Poetry Slam. She’s shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the poetry world: Gil Scott-Heron, Sonia Sanchez and members of The Roots, among others. However, she
unfamiliar with English as inferior? “I just felt like it was a betrayal of where I’d come from,” she said. “Most of the smartest people I know do not speak English, and to be in this environment where you not speaking English is treated like you have some kind of disability, or ‘Maybe one day you’ll be smart, but first let’s teach you the vocabulary of intelligence.’ I mean, English is not the language of intelligence. There’s no such thing.” Safia didn’t quit the program—it was too late to withdraw from the class that required it—but finishing it had its benefits: “If I’m going to be a hater, I may as well be an informed hater” she says, her lips curling into a defiant smile. Plus, because the teacher liked her critiques of the program, he put her in touch with a group working with another ESOL program. This time, she would edit a magazine that published creative works of students learning English in New York City. “This is cool. This is kind of more up my alley, because we’re talking about creative writing,” Safia thought. “My final paper for that class had been on the role of poetry in teaching literacy, so I was like, ‘okay this is cool, maybe I can give it one more shot, maybe the angle is wrong.’” *** “I fucking hated being on that editorial board.” The editorial process turned out to be
“all the things that I hated about the ESOL scene just concentrated into this group of like five people.” English was once again prized as the language of beauty and achievement, and not all the students were given an equal shot to get published. Rather than sharing the entire program’s work, the editors weeded out the less “poetic” content in favor of highly polished works by more experienced English speakers. Safia felt the editorial selections defeated the entire point of the project. It didn’t celebrate the learning process, or the people involved, but singled out the greatest technical feats. “You need to figure out if the aesthetics or the message are more important in what you’re doing.” Safia finally dropped ESOL programs for good at the end of the semester, but she had a problem: “I was not happy last semester at all…I was really unhappy.” The experience “made me angrier, made me bitterer. I was much nicer before I came to college. I was such a nice person before I came to college.” But what could she do with her bitterness, with her ambitions as a “poetry therapist?” She got into the medium her freshman year, as a way to avoid pure aestheticism, to engage the world in her poetry and avoid a stuffy, removed life (“I mean, I’m an artist but that can’t be, like, my occupation. That’s like first world as fuck”). However, her first two plunges into language therapy failed, leaving her alienated by those trying to “teach.” Determined to find a constructive, respectful outlet for her poetry, she turned to a place no language is privileged, where language itself fails: trauma. *** “The ultimate act of claiming something is naming it, is choosing the words you associate with that thing and identifying it with that word,” Safia explains, her dark eyes lighting up against the unseasonably sunny March day in Washington, D.C. “That’s what people have been doing for all time, that’s how colonialism works, right? You see something, change its name and it’s yours.” Safia now focuses both her poetic and therapeutic work on reclamation through words. Trauma, she explains, occurs when
certain, often painful, memories encode themselves differently from the rest of our experiences. As we grow older, we understand our memories verbally, but the traumatic refuses this medium—it pushes its way to the pre-verbal, creating a space language cannot penetrate. Psychoanalytic theory calls this space the “Real.” “At the end of the day, everything wrong with us comes from the human fear of the unknown. I think the reason trauma memory is able to capture people this way and victimize them this way is that it’s a little piece of the unknown that’s rammed inside your head,” Safia explains. “When you assign language to something you’re able to encode it into your own process and it’s not as much of a trip-up.” A lot of her work now centers on attempts to understand memories through poetry. “Art doesn’t have to be an aesthetic thing, that it doesn’t have to be a decoration,” she insists. “This idea of naming things is what poetry is all about…you’re choosing the set of words that identify this thing, and that gives you ownership of your experience.” Safia is studying to guide others to this reclamation—she’s currently taking a class on trauma (“it’s at 9:30 Tuesday mornings in a basement and it’s about childhood and adolescent trauma, so I leave thinking there’s just no hope in the world at all, everybody sucks and does bad things to everybody”)—and hopes to blend the beauty and utility of language in her work. Of course, she’s not only a therapist, but also an accomplished poet in her own right. So last spring, when her family was swept up in the Egyptian uprising, when her cousins were kidnapped and she lost contact with her mother and brother an ocean away, she found an opportunity for a bit of auto-therapy. *** “That poem was never supposed to be a poem, first of all,” Safia blurts out. She’s talking about “Egypt,” written in the midst
of the uncertainty she felt early last year, a poem that she still performs today. Last January, Safia found herself completely out of synch. Though she’s from D.C., all of her family is from Sudan, and most of them still live there. Shortly after she graduated high school, her mother and brother moved just outside Cairo. Finding herself in a strange city, an ocean away from her entire family, she grew disoriented. “I felt like all the context through
Then the phone and Internet lines were cut and worst-case scenarios began to dance in her head. “I have a super-active imagination, so I’m like watching the news and stuff, and, you know, my brother’s not very political. So I doubt he would be out in Tahrir or anything,” Safia remembers. “But what if something happens to him on the way back from school? There’s looting and stuff going on. I don’t know what’s going on. They could be okay or they could not be okay, but I don’t know.” Around the same time the protests in Egypt swelled, unrest in Safia’s native Sudan reached a critical mass. One day, while still awaiting word from her mother and brother, her grandmother phoned her from Sudan with news: two of her cousins had been kidnapped. Complicating matters, their father was the head of one of the nation’s Safia Elhillo uses her spoken leading opposition word performances to reclaim parties, and Safia her experiences. feared the worst. “The [family] name is known and everything, Photo courtesy of Safia Elhillo so they’re not just going to be arrested, get a slap which I’d been able to identify myself had on the wrist and sent home. The governjust been uprooted, and I’d been sent off ment wants to make an example out of to a city that I’d never lived in before. My them,” she recounts with remarkable calm. family was in a different part of the world. “I don’t know how long they held them. So where is all my context? And memory It was at least a week but nobody knew is context.” where they were. We thought they were Throughout college, she called her dead, we didn’t know what was going on mother “maybe once a week,” taking the with them.” check-ins for granted. Communication While her family was suffering, torn has been a “huge sore spot” for her and apart a continent away, Safia remained her mother because “we love differently. tucked in her college home in New York She’s very expressive with it, I’m just, like, City, enjoying the privileges that life in a ‘You know I love you so you don’t need Western metropolis afforded her. The guilt me to tell you all the time, right?’ But she’s drove her mad. like a single parent with two grown-up “I feel guilty a lot, just generally speakkids, it’s nice to hear it sometimes, you ing. There’s this perpetual guilt—my mom, know?” It was her mother who told her my brother and I are the only part of the about the mounting tension during one of family that’s in the U.S. We have famtheir regular chats, but Safia dismissed it ily that’s in England, but they all end up at first, thinking it was unlikely to affect her going back to Sudan, but we’re the only family—they were in the suburbs, after all. ones that left and never came back,” Safia
says. “It’s one of those things that, after 12 years, would die down, but every little thing. Like I’m sitting outside, on a spring day, wearing what I want, drinking coffee, wearing lipstick, being able to sit with a man in public and not have to worry about being fucking stoned to death or something.” “I’m way too lucky to be here, but what’s the point? What did I do to deserve this, what do I do to continue to be deserving of this? A lot of the guilt I’d been carrying around to that point just collapsed on me… it really fucked with me. I was not able to function for like two or three days.” *** After those couple days of paralysis, one of Safia’s friends urged her to get out of the apartment and participate in their regular Sunday ritual, a public jazz show in a Harlem living room. Riding the subway uptown, a realization overtook her: “I remember being like, ‘I should write something down’ because I was thinking so much that my head was buzzing. And I was like, ‘This is stupid, I feel like I’m going to implode if I don’t do something about it.’” Safia quickly jotted down some notes on a piece of scrap paper before disregarding it. It was just “basic language” on things she was thinking. A couple days later, she found out her mom and brother were okay, and went about her life. When she went to practice for her slam poetry team later that week, she explained the situation to the team during a pre-practice check-in. Her coach, “who loves to see a poem in everything, everything is an opportunity to write a poem” encouraged her to write about her stress. Dreading the
invitation, she told him she already did— “thank god for that, I didn’t want to write it again.” But the coach pushed her, asked her to see the poem. She yanked out the piece of scrap paper and “this incoherent journal entry,” handed it to him, and he asked her to type it up. “I’m like, ‘Look dude, I really don’t want to work on this poem.’” But he persisted, and soon he had a skeleton of a poem in his inbox. That skeleton’s morphed into one of Safia’s signature poems. She delivers it with an anguished vigor, the result a powerful meditation on guilt, distance and an encounter with trauma. It’s also one of the poet’s least favorite works. “As a piece of language art it’s very basic,” she says derisively. “But you know, there are some things where it’s bad taste to use heightened language, heightened flowery language to describe something that is the opposite of that. So I made peace with it and now I use it a lot.” Its place in Safia’s rotation is significant for a poet who compulsively rotates her selections in spoken word performances. “I have crazy new toy syndrome, especially with poems. When I write a new poem that’s all I want to perform…As a result of that I’m not able to perform them as well, or not as well, but not able to connect with them as much. I just feel like I’m reciting.” But “Egypt” is different. Its emotions linger with Safia, perhaps because the poem itself offered her a chance to claim those experiences. “Even though the actual event is over,
the circumstances that led up to it are very much here. The poem is not about Arab Spring, it’s about my relationship with my family and distance and privilege, which still exist. And the really deep-rooted guilt that I have, that’s still there,” Safia insists. “So I’m still able to tap into this place of super-super guilt and perform the poem. Which I guess is good, which I guess is unhealthy as well, but hey what can you do?” “It’s still a poem I enjoy performing. How fucking masochistic is that?” *** Safia’s work—both her poetry and her therapy—indulge that “masochism” for the sake of catharsis. “There’s a lot of catharsis in the performance of a poem. It’s like a therapy session almost, where you’re working to this point where you’re checked out and disassociated,” she explains. “You have to be brave to get to that point in a performance, and I can’t do it often because I’m not brave enough for that shit, it’s terrifying.” While “teaching” left her angry and bitter, spoken word promises an opportunity to grapple with trauma on their own terms. It’s not a fight she can stage all the time, but when she works up the courage, the rewards are immense. “To do it, there’s this awesome feeling of triumph, that I overcame my trauma. I danced with it for like three minutes, and I won, and I’m still here and I’m okay and it’s over there on that stage. And I won, because I’m the one that walked out alive.”
Boxing you in
By Danielle Torres
A meditation on racial identity—through a census form “I’m Puerto Rican.” That’s usually what I say when people ask a second time where I am from. The first time someone asks me that question I usually say, “I’m from New York.” Then the person rephrases the question, “What are you? What is your background?” I come from a Puerto Rican family that is short and loud. Actually, I’m a little West Indian, too, on my mother’s side. I also say I’m Hispanic but I have been told that label falls under ethnicity. I’m a little displaced when it comes to the question of race. Growing up, my family used to chuckle about the race section on the Census. We always lingered on that section a bit longer than the others trying to decide what box or boxes we should check off. In 2009, when I was a freshman at Ithaca College, none of my peers cared about the Census. It was just another survey and spring finals were coming up. Although it was a single sheet of paper, I felt that it was another symbol of young adulthood. It was my turn to decide for myself how I was going to answer the race question. What is Person 1’s race? Mark X one or more boxes. I paused, pen hovering, weighing my options. All postsecondary institutions that receive Federal financial assistance as defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965 are required to report the race/ethnicity and gender of students. The data is organized in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a program under the National Center for Education Statistics, which tracks academic progress among these demographics. I remember my parents telling me during my senior year of high school that colleges really value diversity and not to forget to mark that I was Hispanic on my applications. It made me wonder what these demographics really mean. Are these multicultural categories supposed to assess integration or provide schools with a way to brag about all of the different groups that are represented at their institution? I came across a student with a strong
opinion on Ithaca College’s multicultural diversity and how he chooses to identify himself. “First I consider myself a global citizen, then a Ghanaian, then an African,” says Kobby. Steven “Kobby” Lartney is a freshman Legal Studies major and Planned Studies minor in Africana politics. He was born in Accra, Ghana but has lived in the United States since 2004. Although Kobby is an international student, he has spent a great deal of time immersed in American culture. This unique experience has continuously molded his identity. “[The experience is] sometimes binary, sometimes polarized and sometimes conflicting,” Kobby says, “I struggle with both perspectives.” Each summer Kobby flies back to visit family in Ghana in order to keep in touch with that side of his life. Ghana will always be his home. To remind himself of that fact, Kobby wears
to college admissions. Yet, he is not considered a minority by Ithaca College as an international student, a contradiction that leaves some people puzzled. According to the demographics for Ithaca College’s Fall 2011 enrollment, Kobby is one of 147 “nonresident aliens,” a separate category from minorities. Kobby believes education transcends ethnicity and race and should not be a factor in enrollment efforts. He believes the attempts by college admissions to break down multicultural diversity into neat little categories sometimes creates barriers rather than promotes diversity. Even if you were to fill out an online application to work as a cashier at Taco Bell, there is a voluntary question asking potential employees whether or not they are Hispanic or Latino. The question of “what are you,” is seen in countless areas in the United States, and it brings up another question of, “why does it matter?” Kobby said that in Ghana people identify on applications by writing in only their nationality. This is done in an empty box, no choices to check. *** The Director of the Office of Admission, Gerard Turbide, said there isn’t a quota for minority or international students. “We’re looking for students who want to be engaged,” he said. “We’d like to create a campus community that is reflective of the world around us.” Turbide said there wasn’t any criterion for being an ALANA (African, Latino, Asian or Native American) student and that it was based on how students identify. “There are no specific ratios, or necessarily any kind of goal, to say we should be at X percent or X number of students who self-identify as African, Latino, Asian and Native American and so forth,” he said. In other words, if a Caucasian student claimed to identify as African American the student may even be eligible for multicultural scholarships, in theory. Of course, once they arrive upon campus, questions of legitimacy will most likely be
“Kobby believes education transcends ethnicity and race and should not be a factor in enrollment efforts.”
a hand woven bracelet around one of his wrists. While the beaded pattern, with shades of white and blue, sits simply on his left wrist, the meaning is what’s important. To him, the bracelet is a reminder of the culture and people he comes from and what is always waiting for him back in the country. Kobby beamed over the mention of the bracelet. “It’s a reminder of the genius of the Ghanaian, the creativity of the African, the greatness of the people of Africa and the love they have for it.” He paused and then added, “It means pride for me.” With skin the color of black licorice, Kobby is automatically considered a person of color in America upon first glance. People of color are then typically classified as a minority when it comes
raised. However, not everybody has to prove his or her cultural ties. “This question was developed by Common App to conform with the requirements for colleges in their reporting back to the federal government,” he said. “So when students self-identify, that information is collected and becomes part of a student’s record at Ithaca College.” The race and ethnicity question on the Common Application is optional to answer but restricted to the categories provided. If you don’t identify with the racial and ethnic selections there is no “other” box with a write-in component. Those who choose not to answer are part of the “unknown” category of students. In regard to the absence of an “other” category Turbide shrugged and said, “The option is whether to answer or not.” *** Other than what is provided on the Common Application, colleges are left to speculate. Take Aaron Lipford, an African American student who works at the Ithaca College phonathon, engaging in conversations with numerous parents and alumni. Sitting in a chair at work with his hands folded neatly in front of him, Aaron exudes a cheery temperament as he greets each person through his headset. The people he speaks to haven’t a clue about Aaron’s racial or ethnic identity, just like they couldn’t guess his hair color or what T-shirt he is wearing. A Biochemistry major with minors in the Humanities and Sciences Honors Program and African Diaspora studies, Lipford is a freshman who received a Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Scholarship when he applied to the college. MLK Scholarships are awarded to incoming freshmen that have demonstrated strong academic aptitude and are members of an underrepresented minority group. Lipford said that although he applied to be an MLK Scholar, he never had to prove his minority status during the application process. “On the [MLK Scholar] application you don’t have to prove you’re a minority because you already applied to Ithaca,” he said. “Admissions has it on file.” That file is based on a five second decision a student makes once they get to the box selection on the Common Application. However, the lack of proof is not true for all scholarships. For example, one of the scholarships unaffiliated with Ithaca College, but promoted in the Office of Financial Aid, is the 2008 Korean Honor Scholarship. This scholarship requires
a certificate of proficiency in Korean, a Korean SAT test score of 700 points or higher, or a transcript for a Korean language course. In addition, many multicultural scholarships require Native Americans to produce a certificate of tribal affiliation. *** Dr. Roger Richardson, Associate Vice President and the Dean of Student Affairs and Campus Life. has many roles. When he first came to the college he served as the director of student multicultural affairs. He created the MLK Scholar program at Ithaca shortly after taking the position in 2000. He previously established the MLK program at New York University and brought the program to Ithaca. Currently, Richardson is the Chair member of the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity otherwise known as PAC-D. Richardson’s responsibilities at PAC-D are evaluating how the campus coordinates diversity programming and educational experiences on campus. “If the majority of students leave this institution and they are not prepared to deal with the diversity that they may experience then as an educational institution, we have not given them the tools that they need,” he said. Richardson said the phrase “ALANA” was coined to construct inclusive semantics. The word “minority” had possible negative connotations for students that fall into that category, especially since numerically some of these students are not in the minority on the scale of the world population. “There was a lot of sensitivity to that population of students to be referred to as
‘minority’ – as if they were ‘less than,’” he said. With the word “minority” being a sensitive issue, colleges sought another phrase to refer to underrepresented students. “Multiculturalism and diversity is not just for those students,” he said. “I would argue that if it’s about anyone, it’s about the majority of students having the experience to participate in these programs.” Richardson also said there are more students that are showing a preference for not identifying themselves. The reason students are choosing not to identify by the categories provided remains a mystery. “There may be a lot more students who are not being counted as being representative of ALANA,” Richardson said. “But because they don’t identify we don’t know.” The statistics support this growing void of students in the “unknown” population. Fall 2011 enrollment indicates 13% of the student body preferred that option. In fall 2010, 12% of the students did not indicate their race or ethnic background. I’m Hispanic and I don’t have to prove it. The admissions’ office doesn’t know all that about me. And who knows? How I identify myself may change. As I filled out the census in my freshman year, my mom’s words echoed in my head. Once you’re mixed, you’re mixed. I scanned over the census one more time and placed a check mark next to Some other race. In the space provided underneath I wrote five neat little letters: Human.
Illustration by Karlem Sivira
Untitlement By K.C. Weston
“I’ll never get a scholarship, I’m a white male.” “_____________ got a minority scholarship, but they’re like, white. So unfair.” “I wish I was a minority, you guys get to have everything.” You say I have stolen from you, and yet I know myself to be no thief. You say I have taken what is yours, but my qualms lie somewhere steeped in your careful recollection of the things you own and why you have them, Blinded by a history that demonizes my repossession, But leaves your involvement in my fate no mention, see All you have was mine before, And yes this “You” is clearly for, my white friends who’s entitlement is a title rendering scores to the placard of colorblind minds in heads quietly stored, who vie for attributing the present conditions of people to their inadequacy, assuming the mantra of the “even playing field,” and then call my people their own enemies, dreams deemed too fortunate and then just ignored. You say I have stolen from you, yet I know myself to be no thief. Your casual statements betray your caped hints At the world you’ve been told all your life is yoursTo have at no one’s expense, except mine. And theirs and theirs and theirs. I know more of your history than you will ever pain to dig out, Because your history wrote mine, and this shrapnel of yours is still stuck in my chest. And to denote your own sins you claim the losers win, Even though the lost is written in the pigment of my skin. You whitewash your history for what you think is your own gain, And all that it is, is a shadowing of your own pain. Could I make your eyes see if your lids were burning? You say I have stolen from you, As you glare down from your golden throne of opportunity, Stiff and unmoving, turned away and choosing, Ignoring the hooks that would pain you to rise from the position, Ignoring the mat on which I sit on the floor, Lusting after the culture I’ve created so I don’t burn out my core. Keeping the lock in the chain, your hand on the door, And You say I’m loitering outside. You say I have stolen from you, but how could you? You have stolen everything, A heavy, bloody inheritance that will weigh on my life, Yet you are the grade for normalcy, The title of opportunity, The image of apathy, And you think you can title me? Call me entitled while declaring your amnesty? Pass by my agony while you live gallantly? I am untitled. Cry thief, And then look in the mirror. You say I have stolen from you, And this is true, Only if my name if yours.
Illustration by Karlem Sivira
Against the Margin By Daisy Arriaga
“We’re going to go around saying our name, year, major and hometown.” “Hello. My name is Daisy Arriaga-Lopez. I am a freshman journalism major and I am Latina.” A student nearby turns to me and says, “Are you Mexican? Because you said you were Latino.” New York City. Over eight million people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. I am from the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Puerto Ricans and Dominicans live together. All year, I hear Spanish music everywhere: “Suavemente! Besame! …. Y el amor vive en alma … Anda derechito no camina de lao.” Goya products are sold at every bodega and supermarket. I smell Cafe Bustelo coming from the corner... pernil and pollo from Castillos Spanish restaurant on Delancey. Women stand outside the salon at 7 a.m. to get their
What it means to be Latina on a predominantly white campus
hair done. As I get my hair done I hear the attitudes coming from the hairdresser, “mi hija se estaba resbaladizo por mí, así que le dio un cocotaso (my daughter was being slick with me so I whooped her butt).” Women stroll out of the salon with rollers in their hair to get that mani and pedi down the block. This is home for me. They may not all be Puerto Rican, but these are my people: Hispanics. Ithaca. Just over thirty thousand residents. A variety of cultural foods downtown in The Commons. Waffle Frolic, Taste of Thai, Subway. There is Apple Fest and Chili Fest where hundreds of people walk around enjoying food, music and each other’s company. Where it can rain, snow, hail, freeze and be sunny all in the same day. Ithaca College. Exactly 6,276 undergraduate students; 962 students of color; 375 Latino/Hispanic. No, this isn’t the Lower East Side anymore. But this is where I chose to continue my education to become a journalist.
African Latino Asian Native American. ALANA. This is how Ithaca College identifies students of color, or as I like to say “non-white.” Coming from New York City as a first generation college student was a difficult move, but one I am glad I made. Still, I was not expecting the reality check I got when I arrived at IC. My brother, who is nine years older than me, went to SUNY Oswego, and realized issues of diversity after being exposed to the differences between New York City and upstate New York. He warned me it would be different but did not tell me I would have to defend the very person I am. My first semester at Ithaca College I took a course called Whiteness Studies. It was a class about the history of white people. Part of the curriculum incorporated the term “wiggers.” If you are not aware of black history, this is a play on the N-word that was used to refer to slaves. But “wiggers” were, from what I saw, the white version. In class, the professor showed us a YouTube video on “How to be a wigger.” I rolled my eyes and told the person sitting next to me, “This should be good.” As the video played, my anger escalated. The only “advantage,” if there is such a thing in this case, was that I was from an urban city so I understood from firsthand experience that this was simply mocking black people. My fellow peers were from small towns with very few people of color and agreed that the men in the video only served the purpose of further mocking of what it meant to be the N-word. Many thought it was humorous that these boys were acting like fools on YouTube, but I
Arriaga’s home in the Lower East Side is very different from her current home in Ithaca.
found it very offensive. When my professor finally asked me what I thought, it took me a second to think about what I was going to say. What I really wanted to voice was: “Those guys are a bunch of idiots. That is how they think black people act? I can imagine the shit they think about Latinos! If they went into New York City that would not rock at all!” Instead, since I was in a classroom setting, I had to tone down my anger and language,. Instead I said: “I find that video offensive because coming from an urban city I can say that, there may be some people that act like that but it is clearly seen as a joke. It’s not funny, it’s offensive and I think those boys know what they are doing.” *** Part of my personality is speaking Spanish, especially to my fellow Spanishspeaking friends. When I do this, people often stare because I am different. When I am asked to identify my culture in class, as soon as I say I am Latino people ask, “What part of Mexico are you from?” I think that all individuals of a Spanishspeaking origin would take that question offensively because people assume that since I speak Spanish I must be from Mexico. When I took Latino Studios, I realized why many students thought that Latinos are only from Mexico. Until the last three weeks of class, all I learned was Mexican
history. I have nothing against Mexican history and the culture, but Mexico is not the only country/island that falls under that category. There is the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and all of South America. Here is what was covered other than Mexican history: Truijillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, Castro’s early years, and the fight for Puerto Rico’s independence that led the island to become the U.S. Commonwealth, all of which was taught around the last three weeks of the semester. I couldn’t help but wonder why. I was hoping to learn about different movements in the U.S. and across the world. I wanted to know how immigration started and where their path led them. I wondered what it took to be a citizen in the past and what it takes to be a citizen now. Instead we only learned the history of Mexico. *** I am a journalism major, and in the media workforce there doesn’t seem to be many professionals of color. I am determined to be one of the successful ones. In high school, alumni would return to speak to current seniors and explain that they were the only person of color in their college classes. They would also be asked to be the spokesperson, in a sense, for a larger group of people. I did not believe it. Boy, was I naive. When I entered my second semester as
a freshman, I was asked to speak on the politics in Puerto Rico: “Well, how does politics work in Puerto Rico? It is a commonwealth so they get to vote for the president right? Or is that just the primaries?” a student asked me. “I believe they do, but I will have to look into that,” the professor said. Then the professor looked at me, stepped forward and asked, “Daisy, do you know?” At first I was angry when he asked me this because I was not born in the island of Puerto Rico. I also realized I had unwittingly stepped into the shoes of the alumni from my high school who were questioned on similar topics. I simply responded: “I was not raised in the Island so I am not aware of its political stand.” I wasn’t offended by the question itself but the expectation behind it boggled my mind. Because I am Puerto Rican, I was automatically the spokesperson for an entire island. When I was dismissed from the class I was heated with anger because I was put on the spot and was a bit embarrassed. When I arrived at my dorm room, I called my brother because I knew that he would understand my anger and be able to explain the situation to me better. “What happened Daze?” My brother asked. “Josh you would not believe what this professor did. He shouted me out asking me if I knew the political stand of Puerto Rico as if I was supposed to know. He looked me dead in the eye and asked me. Should I be mad?” “Well, you knew that it was going to happen. You know that being Latina in a white school was going to put you on blast within itself. Was the professor white?” “NO! He certainly was not and that’s what gets me so mad is that he isn’t and to put me, a student of color, on blast in a room full of white peers is......I just can’t understand why he thought that was okay!” “Daze, breathe please. I wish I can tell you that this is the only time it is going to happen but it’s not. Understand that the professor may not have taught a class where there was a student of color before, he might not have thought it would offend you. You can either talk to him and explain how it made you feel or let it go and start growing thicker skin because Daze this isn’t the only time in life it is going to happen.” When I hung up I took a breather and Photos by Daisy Arriaga
looked at it the way he suggested. I didn’t tell the professor it bothered me, but I eventually realized that it might not be the only time I would be pointed out in that class. *** When I go back to my Puerto Rican family, I am not considered “as Puerto Rican as I should be.” When I am in Ithaca I am different because I speak another language and my customs aren’t as Americanized as others. But when I go home it is a different story. My Spanish is considered broken since I cannot speak fluently or be grammatically correct. I was certainly confused as to whom I identified and I’ve learned that who you are is often the same as how you define yourself. After my first semester I reclaimed my Puerto Rican culture and have not doubted it since. When I went home after my freshman year, I began speaking more Spanish with my parents and family because my brother and I are the only ones of our generation born in America to know Spanish. My cousins do not speak Spanish or understand it and I did not want the language to be lost because we weren’t in Puerto Rico. As one of the few journalism students of color at Ithaca College, it was hard trying to prove that I had just a right to be here as my fellow peers did. However, one person took it upon themselves to inform me of “my place.” “Hello, what is your name?” they asked me. “My name is Daisy Arriaga, and yours?” I responded. “Arriaga? What are you?” “Puerto Rican and you?” “Puerto Rican? I thought you were
white!” “No I am not, I am one hundred percent Latina,” I said with pride. “Well, you won’t last long here. You don’t belong here. Go back to your country because you won’t get far.” I could not believe that this person actually told me that. You have got to be kidding me. Are we stuck back in segregation? Am I not allowed to be successful because of my last name? As soon as that person spoke their mind, they walked away giving me no opportunity to respond. I wasn’t able to retreat to my room after the remark because I had classes throughout the day. I had to continue my day, pretending I wasn’t as upset as I actually was. When I finally arrived at my room, I called my best friend. “Oh. My. God. You would not effin’ believe what this gringo (white person) said to me today.” “What did he say?” “El me dijo (he told me) that I wasn’t going to be successful because of my name, since it’s Spanish and that I basically should quit while I’m ahead because I won’t go any further than I am right now.” “Please tell me you’re joking.” “Nope.” “What the fuck? Look if that gringo thinks he can get to you then you need to first let that shit go. Don’t let them get to you because at the end of the day you both got into Ithaca. And you are capable of making it in life. Don’t let that pendejo (idiot) get the best of you because you are only giving him the satisfaction of controlling you. And when you make the big bucks, after you buy my house for me, (laughs) then you can rub that shit in his face.” “But journalists don’t make that much
money unless you’re into broadcast which I’m not.” “But you will.” *** I have not seen that person since and hope that I do not because I would only become more angered and ultimately would be giving their words power over me. Speaking to my best friend was the last time I had to rant about a comment or situation that involved me being Puerto Rican. Eventually I grew thicker skin and learned that as a journalist I cannot take everything to heart. I began applying this to everyday life. I have accepted that physically I do not look like a person of color and it is not until I speak that others realize I am Latina. It would have been easy to yell back at the people that hurt me but I knew that was exactly what they wanted. This would have been a clarification of the already present stereotypes in their heads. Instead, I took that negativity and used it as my motivation to prove them wrong. I learned to ignore the discouragement and see it as envy because the only reason someone would discourage you is because they see you as a threat. Being an ALANA student at Ithaca College means you are different. It means that the cultural background you come from isn’t what the majority is used to seeing. But it does not mean you are less than the next person. Because at the end of the day, all of us are here for the same reason — to obtain an Ithaca College Degree. That should encourage us to embrace our individuality, not shield it because we are ashamed. I am proud of who I am, where I come from and my native language.
Stays in Vegas
Ithaca College alum explores life as a homeless person By Kyla Pigoni
You can do this. Avoid the cops. Just go. Find somewhere to sleep. Just go. Walking down The Strip in Las Vegas, the 22-year-old man pulls his backpack further up on his shoulder. Glancing around, butterflies swarm his stomach when he notices the police blocking the street. That’s New Year’s in Vegas for you. Perhaps today wasn’t the best to begin this adventure. Sucking in hesitation and fear, he sees where he needs to go. He sees the area that might possibly offer him the chance of food and bed for the night, but it’s a long shot. The area is sure to be crowded with tourists and locals tonight, all drinking and celebrating the moment when 2005 becomes history and 2006 starts with the fresh air of a new beginning. But first thing’s first: how to get there? A four-foot tall, uneven, fence with sharp steel beams sticking out of its top separated the median he stood on the hub of Sin City. Nothing too daunting for a man
different ways. Unfortunately for him, his ended with a bleeding gap on his palm and a fear of infection. It was a scenario he didn’t consider when he boarded a plane with nothing more than a backpack with one change of clothes, a cheap blanket, a jacket and some pens and notepads on January 1, 2006. There was no going back for him. He had arrived to be homeless.Voluntarily. Motivations Before January 1, 2006, Logan never had money issues. As a Park Scholar at Ithaca College—a scholarship that pays for a student’s full tuition— he was fortunate to graduate debt-free, and prior to that his parents provided a safe and happy home. Activities like going out to dinner and going to the movies were never a financial drain—just a part of his day-today life. “I was always that kid who would be admonished for giving a homeless guy a dollar or two when I saw them,” he said. “My
“Gambling seemed to be the next rational choice to line his pocket with something other than dust. Even if that meant obtaining money in a questionable way, none of it matters when a man is hungry.” that stood roughly 6’5”. Approaching the fence, he plans his advance. One leg over, then the other. Easy, right? He steps up onto a concrete base. Success. He steadies himself and prepares for the swing. Success. The trip over, however, was not. His foot is unable to find stable ground on the other side and his long body tumbles over the fence. On the way, his hand snags on the top of the fence where thin green rectangular pieces of metal reached their jagged edges into the sky. It pierces his skin and slices straight down. A clean, 2” wide gap now glares up at him from what used to be his unaffected palm. Police and medical personnel begin to swarm. They weren’t there a minute ago, but now they’re everywhere, poking and prodding both physically and mentally. Where are you coming from, Son? What’s in your backpack? Can I see your identification? Logan Mosier’s first day being homeless in Las Vegas could have gone a thousand
friends would say, ‘he’s probably going to spend that on booze or drugs.’ But I didn’t really believe that. I guess my idea to do this came from the curiosity of whether or not that statement was true.” When he began to tell people his plans for after graduation, he was surprised about the number of people who had no problems believing him. His best friend in college, Ryan Walker, took a humorous approach to the idea and reminded Logan of very real possibilities that would face him, such as “being shot by a drug dealer or contracting scabies.” “At first I didn’t really grasp the situation and how dangerous it would be,” Walker said. “My first reaction was to remind him that if he was to go during that time frame, he would miss arguably the most epic NCAA national title in history.” First Day Impressions His first day as a homeless man in Las Vegas was not dull. Exiting his friend’s uncle’s car next to The Strip, Logan imme-
diately ran into a group of cops. Prior to starting his homeless experiment, Logan did not prepare at all. He didn’t look into local vagrancy laws, look up local hospitals or read articles about how to survive on few financial resources. By the time his first day came he was already faced with a confrtontation with the police and a serious injury to his hand. “I was surrounded by police and paramedics almost immediately,” he said. “It was New Year’s Eve, so they had standby paramedics for the partiers. I think I’m the only sober person they saw that day.” The accident was so sudden that Logan said it took awhile for the shock to wear off. He was bustled around with various people looking at the two-inch wide gap that he didn’t really register the pain until afterwards. When he finally got to the hospital, the idea of using his insurance was tempting, but he resisted. “I figured this was as good a time as any to begin seeing what it’s like being without an identity or insurance,” he said. “I thought people would look at me differently or glare at me, but nobody did.” Despite his apparent lack of insurance, he was stitched up and sent to discuss a payment plan. The whole experience took about three hours. “Two ambulance rides and twelve stitches later, I found myself outside a hospital miles away from “The Strip” with no money, no insurance, and no identity,” he wrote in his book. That night was a milestone for Logan as he took the lay of the land and began to get a feel for what it is like to not have a bed, let alone shelter, to go to at night. Walking from the hospital back to The Strip was not easy. He walked, and walked and walked as he tried to get an idea of his new home. He felt paranoid with every passing car and realized that he was completely and utterly alone. And then I see it. My spot. My home. My future… Situated between a strip of palm tress lining the parking lot is a gravel flooring that gives the impression of a grey pillow to the exhausted traveler. His hand bloodstained and throbbing, he puts his backpack down as a pillow, unravels his blanket and lies down on the unforgiving mattress of rocks. That sleep location only lasted a matter of hours, until he woke up with a sharp
pain shooting through his leg. Time to find another place to sleep. The new bed comes in the form of a table at the Luxor Casino’s food court. It’s not much, but it offers a promise of a few hours of restless sleep. The end of that first day was difficult for Logan. His first night feeling what it was like to have no name, money or home left him exhausted and feeling degraded and embarrassed. He did not stay alone for long, however. Day two was the beginning of his run-ins with the seedy areas of Las Vegas. It was the beginning of Logan being exposed to a culture he had only heard about from the media and Hollywood movies.
When in doubt, gambling seemed to be the next rational choice to line his pocket with something other than dust. Even if that meant obtaining money in a questionable way, none of it matters when a man
I never thought I’d see a day when a homeless man scrounging for fast food handouts was the object of my envy, but it has come.
Now I am hungry. To make matters worse, I still don’t have my money for bandages and Neosporin. So I do what any recent college graduate who finds himself in a financial bind does. I ask for money. Logan is not proud of the attempts, and apparently neither is his audience. Not only does he not receive so much as a dime, but the individuals do not even offer a polite, “I’m sorry.” A natural showman in my normal life, I am quickly reduced to a soft-spoken quivering mess when faced with begging others for change.
By the end of the night, Logan walks away from The Strip with $18.48 to his name. Never A Quitter
Do As The Sinners Do
It has been over 24 hours since Logan has had so much as a bite to eat. Food would be a god-send right about now, but after going on a wild goose chase with a slightly unstable fellow named Thomas, the chances of receiving any sustenance were becoming slimmer and slimmer. A burger, an order of French Fries, anything would help to stifle the groans that his stomach were beginning to emit in their deprived state. Alas, pride wins over. Walking away from the local Burger King with nothing more than a cup of free water, he resigns himself to feast on his pride and timidity. Begging isn’t an art that comes easily to those not predisposed to the act, a fact Logan finds out the hard way. On his second day on The Strip, he has the epiphany.
I am ecstatic. I view the nine dollars in my pocket as a shark views blood; I can’t wait to get more.
is hungry. The Golden Nugget, Sahara, Aladdin and The Tuscany. All four offer free play, all four offer a chance for a little bit of profit. Entering The Golden Nugget with newfound confidence, Logan signs up for a player’s card. The little plastic card is worthless but the promise it holds is not lost on its holder. With a little bit of luck, the worthless card (which has a $10 signup credit preloaded) could transform into something worth more. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Five new cards fill the screen of the “Game King” poker screen. Selecting what cards to hold, when to fold and when to draw, Logan turns three dollars of slot play into five actual dollars. A meal at McDonalds. Continuing his play, he walks out of The Golden Nugget with more money than he’s had since being dropped off at The Strip—nine dollars now fill his once empty pocket.
The distinction between his ‘normal’ and ‘homeless’ lives is a balance that’s hard for Logan to continue dancing between. How does one stay in a lifestyle wrought with disease and famine when they know a warm bed and potential bank account is waiting at home? “Quitting was never an option,” he said. “People who are truly homeless do not have the option to quit, therefore I never let the thought enter my mind.” Needless to say, the experience was not an easy one. The previous stories represent the different experiences he endured due to the culture of homelessness, but the fact that he lacked funds was a recurring problem. The first day alone caused him to fret when he realized he’d need to turn in over 400 recyclables to buy a package of gauze and antiinfection cream. While he could have walked away at any time, the first real chance to change things around came when he met up Randy’s uncle for their weekly meeting, an arrangement created in order to give Logan’s mother piece of mind that somebody would check in on him every seven days. Scott pulled up to the curb and got out wearing a business suit. The passenger seat of the little green car catches Logan’s attention. After spending an hour looking through the trash for a penny, the bag on the seat that holds his wallet and cell phone is a temptation similar to that of a bottle of rum to an alcoholic. Self-control is key. Rifling through the bag, Logan skips past the cash that adds up to over $100 and grabs his identification—a privilege he thought many lacked in his newfound culture, but was actually an accepted artifact. “Even five dollars would mean the world to me at this point,” he wrote. “But I can’t bring myself to use it. Taking money out of the wallet would be compromising my integrity, and I feel that I’ve done that enough already.” So rather than risk his integrity by grabbing the wallet, he brainstormed creative begging signs for his freshly found piece of cardboard. Ideas included: 1.Standing in front of a chapel and offer,
Photo courtesy of Logan Mosier
“Will marry for food.” 2.Charge passerby’s to view “The worst dancer west of the Mississippi.” 3.Begin to sell paper airplanes made out of pornography advertisements. He was sure they’d be great hits in the tourist crowd on The Strip. All Things Come to an End This cannot be my hand. These are not my feet. This is not my back. This is not me. This man cannot be me. The five weeks of research came to an end when Logan was kicked out of a casino for appearing “too homeless.” Logan was fortunate enough to have a car, driven by Walker, waiting outside on The Strip that day—the sort of luck that he did not have for five weeks and something his homeless friends never had. He ends his time on the streets with a goodbye to a man he befriended during the research. Throughout their friendship, John offered many points of advice to Logan in order to survive on the streets, but in the end, it was time for Logan to offer John hope. You have a very bright future. Such simple words. Words that many college graduates hear from parents, friends and professors on almost a daily basis, but for those confined to the streets it’s the little things that count. John struggles to not let tears run down his cheeks as the two embrace. Logan never heard from John again. He didn’t hear from anyone he encountered back in the day. Regardless, he walked away with his head held high. He completed what he set forth to do—a task that few would be willing to do and even fewer would be willing to try. Thirty-two pounds lighter, Logan gets into the car and drives away with Walker to a home, a bed and a shower. Past Reflections It’s been seven years since Logan slept on a gravel pad under a tree on The Strip in Vegas. Since leaving the homeless life, he has gone back to Vegas countless times, each trip making the experience easier and easier. “At first it was chilling to go back,” he said. “It was weird to see it from the visitor’s point of view after knowing it as my home for five weeks.” Logan’s experience left him as a changed man, and others could easily see it. “He seemed more focused, and was a lot skinnier,” Walker said. “I think if that project didn’t change you there is something wrong, and for him, I think it gave him a perceptive that is hard to define, even today.
That perspective is something that Logan tried to explain not only in his book, The Hobo Diet, but to friends, family and peers. “I am no longer under the delusion that I am somehow different somehow better than the so-called dregs of society,” he said. “I’m easier to please, more curious about why people are in the position they are today, and have a much more measured perspective.” That perspective is something he hopes to pass on to others, so long as he can find the correct medium to do so. Currently, that medium is being founded in the form of a new project he’s working on. Last year, he walked around the North End and retraced his old routes in order to come to terms with his fears. However, Logan knows that his experience cannot just be left behind in his memories. Now it’s important for others to understand the culture of being homeless and the fact that not everybody who is thrust out on the streets is there because of faults of their own, nor do they all ask for money in order to buy booze. “Many people who are homeless are not seen,” he said. “The homeless individuals that we see asking for money represent maybe 10 percent of the group. They are the ones who have been able to throw aside dignity. Most cannot bring them-
selves to do that.” The “invisible homeless” are the predominant group of individuals that are struggling. They’re the ones that are out looking for work, stuck in shelters or in back alleys hiding their shame from the world. These are the people that need your help. *** Sitting in the Sport Book at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, Logan Mosier is focused on the Vanderbilt v. Wisconsin game. An intense game, his attention barely strayed. He had flown to Sin City from Phoenix to watch the games with Ryan. As he sits in front of the multiple television screens, laughing and chatting with friends, with the occasional cheer when a team makes a basket, it’d be hard to believe that just seven years earlier, he was in Vegas for a different reason. Seven years before, he arrived in the city to be homeless. Voluntarily. *All italics are excerpts from Logan’s book, The Hobo Diet.
Not on My Watch
The Officer Frank Story A satirical look at racial inequality in the war on drugs
Officer Frank leaned against the door of his cop car. The ash from the tip of his cigarette floated down to the tip of his boots. The sun’s reflection bounced off his Aviator shades, which hid the eyes of the officer. He finished off his cigarette, flipped the butt to the curb, and made his way through the dorm entrance. He climbed the stairs past the RA news boards and John Mayer flyers. Officer Frank made it to the third floor and walked to room 314. He waited outside the dorm room as sweat dripped down his forehead, and his palms became moist. The adrenaline made it difficult to breathe. He took out his gun, and made the sign of the cross: “Hail Mary, full of grace, Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” He kicked open the door, where he had already prepared himself to meet his lord.
“Freeze scumbag!” “Oh shit! What’s goin’ on?” Waiting inside the dorm room for Officer Frank was a 19-year-old college student standing beside his window. In the student’s hand, Officer Frank spotted exactly what he had feared would be waiting for him. “Drop it mother fucker! Drop it!” “Okay, okay! Don’t shoot dude!” The student put his hands up, and then began to move one hand towards the counter slowly. He gently placed it down. Officer Frank charged and threw the young student to the ground. He grabbed him by the head and pushed him to the floor. Officer Frank reached up towards the counter. He grabbed a little piece of the ash with the tip of his fingers, and brought it to the tip of his tongue. “Just as I thought. Mary FUCKING Jane. How much of this shit you supplying in here dipshit?” “Ah, just a dime bag. I swear!” “A dime bag, huh? You know what kind of time your looking at here chicken shit? This much pot warrants a judicial warning, and a 1,000 word essay on the dangers of
By Benjamin Litoff
smoking marijuana.” He lifted the student up and yanked him by the hair. He slammed him into the wall right against his Dave Mathew’s Band poster. Officer Frank leaned in to whisper in his ear. “If I get a say in this, you’ll be getting the chair, motherfucker.”
*** A full day has passed since Officer Frank thought he was close to meeting his mortal end. He waited outside his supervisor’s office inside the Ithaca Tech University Public Safety building. He was prepared to be chewed out by his sergeant. Officer Frank was no stranger to criticism of his policing methods. He was called into Sergeant Stillman’s office. “God damn it Frank! What the fuck did you do now?” “I’m doing my fucking job. Someone has to clean up the filth on this campus!” “Listen Frank, I don’t wanna hear it this time.” Sergeant Stillman took out a cigarette and took a seat in his chair. He leaned back and put his feet on the desk. “Now look here Frank. You’re reckless,
careless and you disobey protocol. And what the hell do I keep hearing about you telling students that they’re getting the death penalty? Man, that’s some fucked up shit.” “I don’t threaten anyone. And it’s a little lady named Mary Jane who is robbing this campus of its purity. Damn it, do you think I enjoy being the renegade cop who doesn’t play by the rules? No! But we all know I get results!” “But at what cost Frank? I have incident reports a mile high on you, and you want to talk about results?” Sergeant Stillman stood up, to put out his cigarette. He stood standing tall with his hands on his waist. “Frank, do you remember Kenny Martinez?” “Martinez was scum! I did what I had to do to get him off the streets.” “He was a prospective MLK scholar here on a visit! What made you think he had any pot on him?” “I just had a bad feeling about him.” “He was visiting with his parents!” Sergeant Stillman yelled while slamming his fist on the desk. “So what, because of his high status as a MLK scholar I can’t search him? That’s profiling buddy, and I’m not about that!” “He didn’t even have any pot on him. And okay, what about Joseph Polen?” “What about him?” Officer Frank took a seat and crossed his arms. His patience was running thin. “Well, the report says outside the Towers you stripped searched him in public. All because you said his Bob Marley shirt and dread locks were evidence of marijuana possession.” “And that was wrong?” “Yes, you fucking idiot!” “And what if he was black, huh? Then what? Would you be chewing me out then? Your racism is getting pretty old with me Sergeant.” “You are aware that I’m black right?” “That’s been a real common excuse for you lately.” Sergeant Stillman was taken aback. He could tell that Frank was more than being serious. “Are you listening to yourself Frank?” “No you listen to me, Sergeant! Just because I use ‘excessive violence’ I’m the bad guy. But isn’t excessive violence what the law is all about? Huh? And stop being naïve. You and me both know the corruption that goes on around here. I’m not blind, and I’m not entirely innocent either. But hell, you got a department full of dirty cops. Whether you like it or not, I’m the best guy you’ve got here and you need me! And I know you can’t admit it sir, but you see a little bit of you
inside me. You see the young buck of a cop that used to run wild on this campus. And those memories give you pain. You lash at me because you can’t be reminded of who you were.” Sergeant Stillman shook his head. He had a hard time grasping the logic of Officer Frank. “This is Ithaca Tech University Frank. No one cares about pot. I don’t know why this is an obsession of yours. All you do is go around harassing students. And despite having over 77 cases of physical assault and 41 cases or sexual assault last semester, all you go after is pot use. This is ridiculous Frank! Hand in your gun and badge. You’re off the force.” Officer Frank stood up and slammed his badge on the table. He was ready to take his gun out of the holster. But before he did, he decided to make one more desperate plea to save the campus. He grabbed the Sergeant by his collar and leaned in close enough so Stillman could feel his breath. “Listen, I have some intel about a hookah circle that is goin’ down tomorrow. Only I know the location of this freak fest. I’m not asking you sir, I’m begging you. This thing is gonna be big. I’m talking eight, possibly ten people on the quad lighting up a spiffy. We’ll need Johnson, Tina, Harrison and the rest of the force for this one. I know I’m the baddest most renegade cop you’ve ever met and you hate me for it. I know you do. But you need me. You need me to help stop this shit. I don’t play by the rules! But sometimes, rules need to be broken for the greater good. Rules like, like probable cause, and, and, and unwarranted deadly force. You don’t just need me. I need you for this one sir. Ithaca Tech needs us.” Sergeant Stillman whipped off some of the spit that landed on his face. He took a big sigh and looked Officer Frank straight in the eye. “Frank. No one gives a shit. Hand in your gun.” Sergeant Stillman looked at Frank dead in the eyes. He continued his cold stare and waited for Frank to give up his gun. Frank wanted to continue to fight, but he just didn’t have it in him. He returned his gun to his Sergeant. The office door slammed behind Frank. He exited the building and put on his Aviators. Does he go to the local bar and drink his pains away? Or does he go rogue and put a stop to the horrors of a quad hookah circle? His mind was set, and his mission was clear. To be continued . . . Read more at 360magazine.org
Illustration by Karlem Sivira
Hitting the Right Pitch Music students clamor to perfect their craft and get ahead By Kyla Pigoni & Kerry Tcacik
process of achieving it is filled with stress. Stress Those Notes Cultivating talent isn’t an easy job. At 11:30 p.m., two people are at work in “It’s a lot of stress that we put on a tiny soundproof room that holds nothing ourselves because most of us are really but a black Yamaha piano, some chairs and a lot of sheet music. A woman sits at the piano, back straight, shoulders rolled down and relaxed. Her palms face down, fingers splayed abnormally wide over the keys. Her neck bends forward as her eyes seek the next note on the page, never glancing up at the other woman, a singer standing opposite her. The singer’s voice reverberates off the mirrored walls that reflect her brow, furrowed in concentration, and the quiver of her curled hair as she lightly taps out the rhythm with one foot. “That was rough.” “We were close.” “I almost have it figured out.” At this time of the night, Image by Karlem Sivira most students are asleep focused and really driven to do what we or tucked away in their rooms. That is not want to do,” Jackson said. a reality for some students in the School Jackson finds the process leading up to of Music, which has traffic going in and performance to be stressful. The pressure out of its building no matter what hour it to master the necessary techniques to is. This strenuous world is home to Ellen perform as an opera singer comes more Jackson, a freshman vocal performance from within than from her teachers or major at Ithaca College. peers, Jackson said. It is difficult to comJackson aspires to be a professional pare herself to other singers because each opera singer, operating in a system where voice is unique. constant pressure to be better than you “Classical singing requires a really were yesterday makes college feel like the mature voice,” Jackson said. “The roles real world. When only the best get casted are so demanding and, because you have and have their events sell tickets, the race to sing without amplification in the opera to be on top is a never-ending struggle for house, you’re relying on your own voice to music majors at colleges and conservatocarry over this massive space.” ries all over the world. Students do not wait for the real world “In my mind, everything counts towards to have their talent judged by professionthe bigger picture now that I’m here and als. Most music programs have some now that I’m studying,” Jackson said. type of exam every year that determines It’s easy to picture the future career, whether you are successfully flourishing to imagine finally reaching that pinnacle your talent and abilities. For Ithaca College and becoming a household name, but the
students, “juries” decide who will stay and who will go at the end of the semester. This process of deciding who is advancing at a satisfactory rate, and who needs to be sent home, is not easy on the students’ nerves. It’s an all-or-nothing test of abilities. Jackson said she does not fear getting kicked out, for she is confident in her progress and the constant strain of testing is just the nature of her field. “The whole process of being a performer is going to auditions. You’re constantly being tested to be good enough for what they want you to do, so you might as well start now,” Jackson said. Quick Fingers, Quick Life He walks into the practice room, muttering a silent ‘thank you’ under his breath that he was able to secure a room with little difficulty. He sets his case down on the table. Snap. Snap. The lid opens to reveal his silver companion. Snapping the mouthpiece into the slot on the body of the trumpet, he sets his sheet music on a stand and begins to warm up with a few notes and scales. Then he starts to play. He gets lost in the music as his fingers glide over the three valves, his foot tapping to the rhythm he creates as he practices his passion. Mason St. Pierre, sophomore trumpet performance and music education major at Ithaca College, spends countless hours practicing his art. He began playing 11 years ago after trying out the instrument in school, and since then decided to pursue a career in playing. He chose Ithaca’s program because of the chance to study under Frank Campos, a fellow trumpet player and a music performance instructor at Ithaca College. “[He] is very highly regarded in the field of trumpet,” St. Pierre said. “He’s also fixing my issues that I have with my playing and will ultimately coach me into being a better player for my, hopefully, orchestral career.” Moving forward in the music industry is
different than most careers—while there are hundreds of different opportunities for somebody majoring in something like history, education or writing, those dedicated to a career path in the music world create a life commitment to either performing or teaching. To even reach that level, the student spends a lot of time in school. For St. Pierre, entrance to a graduate school for trumpet performance is next on his list of goals. He hopes to one-day conduct university level bands with a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree on the wall. St. Pierre said the competitive environment of the school is a benefit to those who wish to go far, and it drives him to keep pace. “Trumpet is very demanding and requires a high amount of physical and mental work, but should sound effortless when played correctly,” St. Pierre said. “Technique has to be solid, your sound has to be in peak form any time you pick up the instrument.” The music school is also friendly, less of a dog-eat-dog world than some other music conservatories, St. Pierre said. Stress, for him, comes from the workload of his program. “My undergrad experience at Ithaca College has been full of ups and downs, but mostly ups,” St. Pierre said. “It’s an extremely energetic atmosphere with lots of amazing people. Contrary to belief, we are busier than most on campus with not a lot of down time. Our down time is practicing and getting better at our craft.” There’s a reason there are no vending machines in the music school at Ithaca College, and it’s likely attributed to their hard working personalities. If you gave them sustenance in the building, their chances of leaving are slim. Throw in
at the end of the day, what we are doing is totally worth it,” he said. Outside the Classroom She stands with her back straight, feet squared, hands resting by her sides. As the piano music begins she pulls in her breath, chest rising with the force she will need to project her voice, as if she were in a full theatre instead of a stuffy practice room. Her voice explodes into every corner of the cubicle, an even, high resonance permeated by a trembling vibrato. Her expression is solemn, but occasionally breaks into a smile and laughter if she misses a beat or mispronounces a word in the new piece. The piano stops, she rustles through her sheet music, finds her Rebecca Saltzman practicing in her dorm room. place and resumes Photo courtesy of Carmen Ladipo. the straight pose to begin singing again. vatories which is certainly nice,” Saltzman Rebecca Saltzman, said. freshman voice and music education A safe place for practicing her musical major at the college, said the Music school craft without unbearable pressure to be offers so much opportunity that there is the best, the School of Music at Ithaca no excuse to not be busy. Saltzman said College also drew Saltzman in because of its success rate. The school has a 100% job placement rate for music education. Saltzman said she feels that she can progress without partaking in the cut-throat enthusiasm, and still feel like she belongs. Saltzman is happy to spend all the time she needs to improve, sharpening her musical talents in the small mirror-walled practice rooms in the heart of Ithaca College’s James J. Whalen School of Music. While she may not be on the ultra-competitive bandwagon, Saltzman feels she has found the right place. on top of the rigorous requirement, she “I’m definitely not a competitive person volunteers for everything she can and in the least bit,” she said. “It’s been nice relies on her time management skills to get to find that even the competitive perforher through. The students’ skilled level of mance majors support me in that.” performance across the board, causes a Despite her love for music, Saltzman competitive atmosphere, but she agrees said she thinks it is important to balance with St. Pierre that the school also proher time between music and activities vides more support than most. outside of the Whalen music school. “Despite what others may say, [sup“Though I love music, I want to be a port] is a much more prevalent emotion at teacher and I feel like teachers need to be Ithaca College than it is at other conserskilled in advising in both their field and
“The whole process of being a performer is going to auditions. You’re constantly being tested to be good enough for what they want you to do, so you might as well start now.” pillows and blankets and you’d have a continual sleepover. Despite the difficulties, St. Pierre appreciates the realistic nature of the music school. The challenges thrown at students during their time in the classroom is equivalent to what they will encounter out in the real world, but the school maintains an atmosphere of support for its students at the same time. “They put you through the ringer, but
Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi practices piano before a concert. Photo courtesy of Holmefjord-Sarabi.
how to give advice on life in general,” she said. Currently, Saltzman is involved with IC Spit That, but wants to become involved with more groups in her next few years at Ithaca College. Even as she branches out of the school, she finds ways to incorporate music into the activity. “Music is applied to everything I do in life. I’m happy when I’m doing something non-music related but music somehow makes its way in,” she said. “For example, when I am writing poetry while star gazing, suddenly I get a soundtrack in my head, and I am beyond happy because music is there in my life, in its purest form: not in an overanalyzed stressful form that we often find ourselves trapped in.” The biggest issue with branching out from the music school is finding a way to balance practice, classes and friends. “I do find it hard to balance, but I pride myself on my time management skills,” she said. “At the beginning of the year I tried to have a ton of non-major friends, and do tons of stuff outside of Whalen, but especially in the second semester I find that while I still have these friends, more and more of my life revolves around what goes on in Whalen.” A Captivated Audience As the lights dim in the theatre, a crowd of people sit in their seats eagerly awaiting the arrival of the young musicians. Four students walk out onto the stage to an earsplitting round of applause, but one performer in particular stands out. The only American student on stage wears his favorite tuxedo and scans the crowd.
Mostly strangers, two faces in particular stand out to him. His mother and brother are smiling up at the stage, eager to see the 20-year-old perform on foreign soil. Sitting down at his piano, he takes a deep breath. He relaxes his hands in his lap, waiting for his three companions to ready themselves. The room goes quiet as they lift their hands in unison and the dance of rhythms and notes from the two pianists and two percussionists begin to flow from the stage. For Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi, second year piano performance major at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore, performing comes naturally. Adorned with a shining personality that enables him to walk out of a strange room with a new set of friends, he emanates the same energy every time he sits down at a piano, especially when in front of a crowd. In order to better feed his desire to perform, Holmefjord-Sarabi chose a world-class music conservatory over the standard university or college experience. “The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory is a school that gears towards performances so academics are never overwhelming,” he said. “Efficiency is a key of the academic system here, and we learn a large amount without wasting any time. This helps us focus on performing, while simultaneously keeping us on a consistently growing path in our education.” While going to school with 200 talented and dedicated musicians can be stressful, Holmefjord-Sarabi said he enjoys the feeling. “There is a high-wire adrenaline rush that simply can’t be beat when performing on the concert stage,” he said.
Despite the fun of the rush, HolmefjordSarabi agreed that the life of a music student is a stressful one due to the number of hours required daily for practice in addition to the anxiety caused by performances. “It’s a lot of stress that we put on ourselves because most of us are really focused and really driven to do what we want to do,” Jackson said. For students at The Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, employment is a given. It is not uncommon for undergraduate students to perform or solo with major orchestras. Many of the students are performing all the time, so Holmefjord-Sarabi feels like he is already employed. He said going to Singapore to study piano was one of the greatest decisions of his life. “I have always been attracted to the kaleidoscopic variety of emotions, colors and philosophical ideas that are an integral part of classical music,” he said. “It makes sense that I’d continue that admiration by becoming a concert pianist who performs at all of the major venues and orchestras in the world.” Coda Fingers sliding across ivory keys, the young boy practices his future, one note at a time. Belting tunes from deep within their throats, vocal cords vibrating, two girls prepare for the big time in vocal performance. Slipping one valve after another into its slot, the musician creates melodies for all to hear. Music is a part of every person’s daily life. Whether listening to pop, rap or classical, it’s influential to mood and personality. Little thought is usually given to how these musicians manage their lives, but the stress and training they go through to reach performance level is substantial. Watching a musician perform is similar to watching a dancer—their form is flawless and viewers are left with a feeling of awe over their ability to work effortlessly. However, this art involves years of dedication working for an audience that will never grasp what goes into each performance. Despite this, the musicians do not care. They play from their hearts because it’s what they love. The continuous race to be the best will be difficult, stressful and time consuming, but their love for music will keep their fingers practicing and their vocal chords straining.
You’ve Got Jail Dealing with racism in the digital age
Fabrice Muamba’s life nearly came to an end on March 17th, 2012. In fact, some would say that his life did come to an end —for 78 minutes. That is how long Fabrice Muamba’s heart was stopped following his collapse during an English Premier League soccer match between Muamba’s club, the Bolton Wanderers, and Tottenham Hotspur. Miraculously, a cardiologist who was attending the game as a Tottenham fan rushed onto the field to provide medical assistance, and restarted Muamba’s heartbeat after 78 minutes of defibrillation. The scene at the stadium was so chilling and disturbing that the contest was abandoned, a rare occurrence in the world of professional sports. While Muamba lay motionless on the field, fans across the world showed their support on Twitter and various other social media outlets. The outpouring of support for Muamba was so widespread that “pray4muamba” instantly became a trending topic on Twitter. However, not everyone was using Twitter as a tool to spread support for the collapsed footballer. A 21-year old student at Swansea University named Liam Stacey was posting slightly less uplifting messages to Twitter such as “LOL. Fuck Muamba he’s dead !!!#Haha.” From there, the tweets only got worse and included the use of the n-word and other racial slurs. Though the tweets themselves were shocking, I must admit that I was most shocked by the legal reaction they generated: on March 27th, a judge sentenced the 21-year-old Stacey to 56 days in prison. “In my view, there is no alternative to an immediate prison sentence,” the judge explained. “Racist language is inappropriate in any setting and through any media. We hope this case will serve as a warning to anyone who may think that comments made online are somehow beyond the law.” I would never excuse the language that Stacey used in his vile tweets, but it is worth asking yourself whether or not you think jail time is the fitting punishment for the crime. Had Stacey actually been in attendance during the game, and held up a sign that said “hope that N***** is dead,” then jail time seems like the obvious resolution. While Stacey would have been practicing free speech, the spectators at the game would have been forced to see the sign, they would not have been given a choice as to whether or not they wanted to be exposed to Stacey’s racism. This is how the “twitterverse,” differs
from the physical world. Say you were a follower of Stacey, and you saw the racism that was being spewed from his account; you could simply unfollow him. So when the judge presiding over the case set the precedent that people commenting online are not “beyond the law,” he opened the door for some very dangerous implications. All of the sudden the wall of anonymity provided by the Internet seems to be crashing down. In the United States, we are protected under the first amendment right to free speech. We can despise the hateful words of the KKK but also recognize that they have a right to speak, whether we agree or disagree with their words. It would be nice to have the ability to throw racists, or anyone we disagree with, in jail and ignore them, but the reason we have the protection of free speech because of the dangerous repercussions that come alongside criminalizing speech. Who determines what is and what is not considered criminally racist? What’s to stop the government from squashing movements aimed at reform, simply because they don’t like it? Many of the most popular comedians such as Dave Chappelle or Daniel Tosh use race in their humor, and there are certainly groups of people that feel offended by it, but do we as a society believe that the best solution would be to throw them in prison for racism? Who could forget the racial diatribe that Michael Richards of Seinfeld fame went on in 2006, repeatedly using the N-word. What followed this incident was a severe criticism of Richard’s actions in the media and a sharp drop off in the way in which the public viewed him. While Richards may have seen this as the end of his career, he is lucky that this rant didn’t occur at a comedy club in the UK because in accordance with the Liam Stacey case, he would have been thrown in jail. But for me, the fact that Michael Richard’s public image is forever tarnished serves as enough punishment for racists.
By Greg Rappaport
Social punishment, not jail time, addressed that situation. Racism is a pervasive element of life that nearly all societies must face. Clearly there are different ways of dealing with racism, especially in regards to new media such as Facebook and Twitter. But the question remains: should people not be racist because they are genuinely against racism, or should they not be racist because they fear repercussions? Is the lesson that Liam Stacey learned from being sentenced to jail time that blacks are equals in society, or that he shouldn’t post his racism to the Internet next time around? Perhaps you believe that he deserved those 56 days in prison for his racist tweets, that racists should be rounded up and thrown behind bars. If this is the stance that you take, than be prepared to make a long list of things that you believe would qualify as offensive enough to warrant prison time or community service. I would wager that if you take your list, and measure it up to the lists of others around the country, that the results would vary to both extremes. With such a wide range of variation among people’s beliefs as to what is and is not racist, should we really consider jail time the right remedy to an issue as complex and subjective as racism? By throwing racists in jail, it would be making the statement that we wish to remove these people from our society because they have a different set of beliefs. While their beliefs may be horrible and detestable, we must remember that racism is something that begins at a young age when the mind is most impressionable, that it’s the result of circumstance. By sentencing those deemed overtly racist to prison, we as a society would only be teaching the current generation of young and impressionable minds that racism should be avoided because it will lead to incarceration. This message is horribly flawed and provides no means for dialogue, or for any meaningful change.
Image by Karlem Sivira
The Bone Makers The sun came down in the east that day, it was said. A yellow eye trailing through the sky, blazing. Slimy and oily, it fell through the air, tripping over clouds and birds. With a fizz the sun burst and acid fire rushed towards the earth, spitting and hissing as it came. It hit the ground and bounced, leaving a sonic boom in its wake, spewing raindrops that melted and burned. The plants all withered that day. The buildings crumbled. That was the day the bones were made. Scattered amongst the shriveled leaves and ooze-caked rubble, the bones stood out like diamonds, gleaming and white against the black tar of the landscape, laying prostrate for hundreds of years. But they weren’t white, not really, not like people always imagine bones to be. They are yellow once you get to their core. But first you have to burrow through the red stain that covers them. That’s what I do. I scrape and scrub away at the bones. I grate away the bits of fused flesh, scrub away the red stain. The Sanitation Plant has a whole job devoted to it, the cleaning of bones. Bone Cleaner. It’s not a creative name, but then I suppose names aren’t everything. But that’s what I do. I clean the bones. Most people think it’s a terrible job being a Bone Cleaner. They hear the word “Sanitation” and immediately wrinkle their noses. I don’t understand it. I’d rather be a Bone Cleaner and deal with the bones among my sterile instruments and antiseptic fluids than be a Bone Collector and have to scavenge the bones stinking and sweating from the Site. Every Cleaner is partnered with a Collector, and Mr. Akimbo is mine. A string of a man, with skin like cowhide stained dark with oil. He moves languidly, as if he is afraid of breaking something. He has a growth of rigid gray curls on his head and a jungle of hair up his nose. The nose hair is so thick that one day when he leaned back in his chair I saw a gnat caught in the tangles. Mr. Akimbo became a Collector to find his daughter’s bones. She was about the same age as me. He says that if he searches long enough, he’ll find them. I have my doubts, but I never say anything. It wouldn’t be right to cut away a man’s existence based on something as silly as doubt. His daughter was smart and pretty in a downcast way. Emily. That was her name. She never smiled, at least not that I ever saw,
and I saw a lot of her. Not in the way you’re thinking, but in the way that kids who live in the same area see a lot of each other. She was always reading something. Obituaries, books, advertisements, you name it. Great dark-brown eyes opened wide. She rarely spoke, but she had a way of wrinkling her eyebrows that gave the illusion that anything you said was of the greatest importance. “I ate three apples today,” you could say, and she would crinkle her eyebrows and slightly cock her head and say “Then I guess it must be so.” She said that about most things. We got along well, her and I, mostly sitting in silence. When we were kids we would walk through the cracked streets and count how many weeds were sprouting. It was always a ridiculous number. *** There’s a girl named Lisa who works with Mr. Akimbo and I, and she’s something else. Hair like a morning sun and a mouth like a faucet. When she talks, I don’t half know whether to laugh or groan. She’s a Cataloguer, and she catalogs the bones after I clean them. Taking weight, height, width, coloring, and noting any particular characteristics before packing them up and sending them down to some other department which puts them to whatever use. We use bones for most things here. It sounds gruesome, but it’s all we have. Sometimes people go out and search for other materials way past the border of our ‘city.’ They never come back though, and so mostly people have stopped trying. *** I remember my father, before he died. We used to travel to the Site and
By Jolene Cochran
walk along the shoreline near the lake and look at the gulls beside the sludge in the water. Strange, deformed gulls that squawked with strangled harshness. The water was horribly polluted, and it let off a sickly sweet smell, as if it was rotting from the bed upwards. Dad would take me to see the bones there, sticking up through the sand like cancerous growths poking through skin. They glistened with lakemurk, and I hated them. I hated the stark yellow-white, the putrid smell. Father told me I shouldn’t be afraid, though. The bones were what kept us alive. “This is what we use,” he said. “Our houses, our buildings, our labs. Without these bones there would be nothing. We owe it to these bones. We should respect them, not fear them. They’re all we have left.” He was right of course. The bones were the only things left, a last gift from our ancestors. It began to make sense to me as time went on. I don’t know when I started liking the bones, but I did. Or maybe I just started pretending– a falsified attraction to cover a secret gnawing fear. *** We had a break-in at the plant last night. There wasn’t any outside damage, but when we came in the morning there were bone shards in the storeroom, as if some-
Illustration by Elizabeth Kloczkowski one had accidentally knocked them over. Several crates of bones were missing too. “Those assholes,” Lisa said immediately, as if she already knew who the perpetrators were. “I swear, if they come in here one more time, I don’t even know what I’m going to do. And breaking everything! That’s just absolute nonsense, it’s vandalism is what it is, not even normal stealing. It’s like these people don’t even have any sense!” I tune out as I extract a dustpan from the closet and begin shoveling bone pieces into the pan with my hands. Sharp calcium knives break the skin on my palms, and I briefly wonder why I hadn’t thought to get a broom. Lisa’s nostrils flare and she pushes back her hair from her face, a feral gesture. “We need to get them back.” “Honey, you don’t even know who they are,” says Mr. Akimbo sensibly, slowly lowering himself into a chair. “Of course I do!” she cries with a snort. “It’s those snot-nosed pigs from the distribution department! They’re always complaining about my notes and how they never know where to send our shipments to.” I wipe my palms on my pants, the tiny cuts creating spider webs of blood against the clinical white. Lisa doesn’t notice this, and continues on her tirade against the “damn bureaucrats.” I don’t know why she thinks it would be
the distribution department. Lisa has strange ideas sometimes. Eventually she simmers down, though, and we get on with the day’s work. *** There’s a pleasing meditative quality to the cleaning of bones, a comforting monotony. Like the sound of buzzing flies or a steady snore. The harsh screech of the scraper against the bones, the squelch of the sponge, the lapping of the disinfectant. Whole bones are the best to clean. The sponge simply glides over the smooth hardness, wiping away all traces of the redness. It’s the fragments that present the most problems, because there’s so many fractures. Too many spaces where the poison can hide. You have to soak those longer than the others, which gives them an unpleasant green tint. My favorites are the porous ones, the ones riddled with holes like calcium honeycombs. Honeycomb bones, like birds. A latticed network of bone. Humans transforming into birds. Whenever I see these bones I can’t help but think, was this sponge-like effect natural, maybe caused by some disease, or was it
because of the chemicals, because of the Bone Makers? Sometimes I wonder who they are, the Bone Makers. The ones who sent down the false sun so many years ago. How did they live, and where? Did they have smart homes instead of corrugated metal, bodies free of aches and patches? And why did they make them the bones? Did they want to turn us into birds, to have us fly away into the night? Or were they cruel, and simply wanted to turn us into birds who would never know the pleasure of flight? The Bone Makers. I wonder what life would be like if they hadn’t made the bones, and I can’t see it. The bones in the plant have fused with my own. ***
Read the rest of the story at 360magazine.org
What Goes On an inside look at underground street racing
The Single Cannon King of Brookline, Massachusetts scratches his chin and walks around the gutted car. It’s headlights shine through a fence at the end of the driveway, a fence it’s been brought up against like it’s caged. The car’s an expensive heap: a black ‘94 Honda Civic coupe with a dimpled front bumper that looks kicked in. But under the hood, which is “all that matters, honestly,” it’s got a H22 high performance engine that revs something wild, like out-of-its-skull. That means it’s doing about 130 miles per hour when pushed, clocking a quartermile on the track in about 12.9 seconds. Except there is no track in Brookline. The King’s out 5 grand fixing up the car, but he shrugs. It’s his secret weapon. He lets it slither backwards down the driveway to sit. It’s not registered, but if somebody’s not backing down tonight, he says, it’s getting brought out. It’s not a threat, it’s a promise sort of thing. He snuffs the headlights. The King runs with the Boston street racing set, who sometimes go by JDM Boston racers or “JDM ridaz” in their small circles. JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market and is where The King goes to get parts. They race cars head-to-head for speed instead of distance. They’ve gotten known by blocking up the Mass. Turnpike and other highways, any straight away really, between 50 and 200 cars deep in the summer, just so they can get a few races in. A side effect of the good weather, they’ve gotten out more during the usual snowed-in months. The King’s been doing this since ‘01 when he was 18, taking cues from his uncle who’d also raced. “It’s in my blood,” The King’d said days earlier, yelling into a speaker phone, followed by the sound of turning signal clicks and police sirens zooming about. Until the King sees the competition tonight, he’s riding with Josh, who just got out of work. Josh is a valet who sees no irony in it at all. He looks much older than he is, which is 20, and drives what’s to him “basically stock.” The car’s a foilcolored Honda Civic SI with a vanity plate, a stuffed Godzilla hanging from the cars hitch, jaws agape, and has two-tone headlights, blue and selective yellow beams that look annoying as fuck in the rearview. “Aren’t those illegal?” someone asks Josh.
“Yep.” Josh’s car is much more obvious then the King’s ride, like a diamond-studded dollar sign. Josh drives with the window down, and you can hear the Latin rap music on his radio. At a red-light he has his arm crooked out the window with a cigarette. From behind, the scene—his car idling, the smoke silking up— looks distinctly American-muscle, classic for some reason. They pull into a crowded Mobil station. What’s there of the pack, only about 13 cars, are already loitering, leaning against the wrecks of their cars or clucking about. This is how they meet up: nothing out of the ordinary. In gas stations or three-port car washes, somewhere with two exits as a rule. The Mobil’s second way out empties around back across from a field where a building’s been demolished. The King and Josh get out of the car and go into bookie-mode. They get talking about numbers and speed gets abbreviated—“It does 12-9” (see the King’s standings above)—followed by the soup of mechanics. They ogle under car hoods, which most drivers open like suitcases filled with money and close saying, “That’s enough, that’s enough.” It’s not really about the car anymore, but what the driver has put into it, how he can handle it. The King has worked in garages before and at least knows how to take apart a car. He talks shop about NOS (Nitrous Oxide Systems) and turbochargers, which can shave a few seconds off your time. But it’s personal as well as technical. Josh might blurt out that they “race for pride. Yeah, pride,” as if it’s something he’s got written down somewhere, but it’s simpler, more A to B. From the looks of things, it’s somewhat of a pissing match, it’s more about bragging rights, and doing something with nothing, than anything else. “Taking shots at each other, someone don’t bow down, then it’s on.” says the King. Sometimes, especially Friday and Saturday nights, drivers will race for money— usually around $100. Those are the races to see, when something’s actually on the line, Josh says. They pick a go-between, a broker, to make sure no one backs out on the bet. “‘He holds the money ‘cause he’s the slowest’ is the saying,” says the King
“Or, like, it’s someone who’s trusted,” says Josh. “Nobody’s trusted,” says The King. It’s still Saturday Night here, slowly closing in on 1AM. The King’s got on an open Red Sox jersey—Brookline’s less than 10 miles from Fenway—with a XL polo underneath. Josh is still wearing his valet nametag and jacket, VALET spelled out on the back in block FBI letters. For the most part, the JDM Boston racers are your average gear-head crowd with nothing better to do then wait for the others to show or somebody to make a start. Like Josh, they all look incredibly old but are around their early 20s. They wait inside their cars with their knees against the dashboard, texting in their lap. Most of them probably took shop in high school. Most wear some type of headgear, either a hat with the flat brim instead of the duckbill or a hoodie MotherMarying their faces. From the passenger seat, a racer near the pump balls up a burger wrapper and tries to free throw it into a nearby trashcan, missing twice, the wad bouncing off the brim. The shooter sighs. Some just never get out of their cars, and the King stoops to talk to them. They’re waiting together for something to happen. “We get a race off, even just one, and the rest’ll come,” The King says, “They come swarming.” The only thing that breaks the vibe is when a cop car drives by. The King makes a sound like “Up,” and there’s the frantic jingling of too many keys and pulling on locked car doors. But the cruiser just floats past and the crew has a laugh. Somebody’s usually more on top of this, listening to the “5-0 Radio Police Scanner” app, available on iTunes for $1.99--“I mean, thank god for technology,” says Josh--and they usually aren’t so skittish. But WBZ, a news station out of Boston, just ran a story on their highway stunts and they’re noticeably spooked. Police are said to be circling in unmarked cars, listening for chirping tires. “State troopers shouldn’t give chase. It’s making it more dangerous out here,” The King says. “Like, there’s this time these two cars were about ready to launch and the cops gave chase and this hot boy with a modified exhaust just stalls.” “We don’t know why,” say Josh.
by liam CurleY
“The other car’s gone. Then all sudden, hot boy guns it, 100 miles per hour right into the guardrail. All fucked up. He’s still in the hospital last I knew.” “I think so,” says Josh. A racer, G., dressed down in grey sweats with the yellow tongue of his boots hanging out is getting antsy. He rolls a joint on his dashboard, mantra-ing, “Roll this joint. Roll this joint.” over and over. After a while he revs his engine, just out of boredom, just ‘cause he can. “You cook rice with that shit?” somebody yells. “Listen. Fuck you,” G. yells back. Maybe you’d have to be from the neighborhood to really understand how it works, but no one ever comes out of their homes or the gas station and has words. They’re going to leave eventually, but someone’s got to know what’s up. There’s been enough of it on the news. It’s not about being a hero or nothing, it’s just no one’s asking. No one really cares what they have to say. “The only solution,” Josh goes off, “is to build a 24-hour indoor track. Then, maybe, we’d stop.” It’s becoming more and more obvious that the cops don’t know what to do with them either, and are waiting for them to die out. But if anything, there’s no violence in them, these kids, just raw numbers. Josh caves and is up against someone they’ll meet at a spot, soon as they find one. What follows is a grueling tour of Brookline (JFK was born here, you can see his house if you want), looking for empty space, on the scent, about 20 cars now in a row. The streets aren’t laid out on a grid, but toss and turn, branch like coral
Photos by Liam Curley
or veins in the throat. From above, if you traced where they’d been, it must look like a snake pinned down by its tail, knotting in on itself, trying to get out of its own body. Earlier the drivers were thinking about making the trip to Providence, but they must have forgotten. Every now and again they’ll stop and it’ll get real quiet. Everybody turns off their headlights and they sit in a Dairy Queen parking lot or somewhere, all piled up. So they can know for sure they found somewhere. They look quiet. Breath fogging up the windows. Then a riot van or the finest will sneak in, send up a warning, a jazz blue siren light to smoke ‘em out, and like putting a hand in a aquarium, there’ll be a panic, a pent up honking of horns. Go to hell. The cops’ll give you a ticket if they catch you speeding, “immediate threat” or something like that, The King says. But for more they can suspend your license, and that’s like death. You lose respect, no one wants you around if they know. But this time’s for real. They’ve ended up behind a loading dock with a view of a deserted highway. The exits are back the way they came or out onto the stage being set. The King has gotten out of Josh’s car and let him go, and the others have gotten out of their cars too. One goes off behind a bush to take a piss. This might be the last and only one tonight. It is almost half past 2AM. “Josh don’t know shit about cars. I could tell him my engine ran on water and he wouldn’t know,” some guy with a toothpick says. The King doesn’t say anything. If this were on the Turnpike, they’d bring traffic to a dead stop, so semis heading
home would have to drive in the ditch. At the front of the traffic jam would be the hole, and the two human beings racing each other would wait in the hole. They’d launch after someone from the sidelines got out and dropped his hands. They’d race from a dig, meaning they’d go until they reached 4th gear, throwing on their emergency lights when they’d done it. “No bullshit,” says The King. “No Fast & Furious, $50 thousand paint job. No bullshit.” But this is not the Turnpike. Tonight there just aren’t enough of them to pull off something like that. Josh’s car, his stock, shudders and then barrels out, a blur of motion until there’s nothing left. It’s like watching an animal escaping from a trap it’s already been caught into. Josh is neck and neck. Pushing 30, The King is one of the oldest guys out here tonight. He hasn’t had his license since 2003. When asked if the scene’s changed, he gives it some thought. “Changed a lot,” he says, “You see they’re getting younger.” This wasn’t anyone The King knew, but over on the Lowell Connector, a man drag racing lost control of his car going 90 MPH and hit the meridian, went airborne before dropping on a car going in the opposite direction, killing a women and her unborn child inside. This just goes on. The Single Cannon King tells it how it is. “You get a name if you’re known.” Broken up and frayed, it’s Sunday, and everybody’s leaving. It happens to be Palm Sunday, the moveable feast.
Inside The Ivy A look inside life at Harvard By Colleen Glennon
a notebook sticking out of the back of my pocket. I looked around and saw boys strutting around in pressed khakis, boat shoes, and bowties. Girls with curled hair and well-made dresses stretched out on the yard with books in hand. They looked like they came straight out of a movie. We passed a girl living in her dorm and Libby whispered in my ear that she was a star of the show Degrassi. We passed the dormitory of John F. Kennedy and passed a classmate of hers who is a world chemistry champion. As I began visiting her more regularly, I noticed how much her friends differed from mine. How they acted differently and carried themselves differently than the people in the world I was accustomed to. They were much more driven, much more focused than any other teenagers I had ever met. Of course, what did I expect? This is Harvard, arguably the best school in the country and one of the best in the world. The people that I met were no short of ge-
It was around 11:00 p.m. when we finally arrived home from Easter Sunday. We stumbled in our dark house, sleepy eyed and content from the heavy food our stomachs struggled to digest. My mom flicked on the lights, illuminating a package on our kitchen table. It was big, fat and crimson, and even though it was just an envelope, it seemed to emanate pride as it lay proudly on our table. I looked behind at my sister, Libby, who was busy kicking off her shoes and hanging up her jacket. She walked in the room, took one look at the package, and ran over to the table screaming. Her face welled up and tears streamed down her face. Even before she read the word “ACCEPTED”, we all knew that she had accomplished her life long dream of being accepted into Harvard College. When I first visited Libby at Harvard, I stuck out. I was dressed in dark skinny jeans, a baggy sweatshirt, torn shoes and
The nice thing about it is everyone feels pressure...It’s communal. It feels like we’re getting through the pressure together.
niuses and were on the path to becoming Nobel Peace Prize winners, presidents, and intellectual legends. But with that comes a price. The constant pressure they feel is unfathomable to many. I often listen to my sister complain of getting an average of three hours of sleep, or how her roommates operate on one or two. She says that she has an average of four to eight hours of homework, not uncommon for many college students. What makes things infinitely more stressful are the grades she shoots for. While I and many other students would be thrilled to earn a grade in the high B and low A range, Libby says that she “hates getting A-’s,” never mind anything in the B range. I would often walk through campus, massive groups of tourists anxiously clicking their cameras at us and the school, and listen in both frustration and awe as she complained about a low (low being a low A) final grade. Another cause of high stress is the extracirculars. Libby is in four, but she says that is a low number. “My roommate is the other extreme,” she says before telling me that Tara (a social studies major) is in 14 extracirculars (institute of politics, undergraduate council, RUS, a feminist women’s rights group, house committee,
to name a few). Most people, she says, on her dance show. meals can be a waste of time.” are in somewhere between four and six A common statement that I’ve heard As we got to talking more and more clubs. 14 seems like an absurd number, from both Libby and her friends is that about the pressure and expectations of and I wondered if Tara was actually heavthey do better when they’re stressed. I’ve going to the top Ivy League school, Libby ily involved in all of those clubs. When often wondered if any of them wished disclosed that “there is a high depression I asked Libby she said that she was, they didn’t go to such a high-pressure rate at Harvard. Don’t get me wrong I love that it’s “frowned upon not to be super school. They all say they do better with it here, but I’m tired.” involved in every club someone is in.” the pressure. To my surprise, many of I found that there is a lot of competition I often talk on the phone with Libby at them said they even like it. within families. Many of her friends said night, lounging on my bed, while she tells “The nice thing about it is everyone that they feel like they had to get into Harme about her favorite club she is in: City feels pressure,” says Libby’s good friend vard because of older siblings or parents Step. City Step is a program that has stuJoe (a classics concentrator). “It’s comwho first got accepted. For instance, one dents at Harvard teach inner city kids how munal. It feels like we’re getting through of her good friends is constantly stressed to dance. It because he has a sister promotes who is a senior at Harvard confidence and just got accepted into and teamYale Graduate School. work to Many of the kids there these young have a tremendous amount kids. Every to live up to. Monday and Going to Harvard ColFriday, from lege, or any other elitist 7 to 10:30 in college for that matter, is a the mornonce in a lifetime experiing, Libby ence. It pushes them gets on the academically but it’s not city bus and for everyone. It takes a rides into specific kind of person to Boston to be able to thrive in that the middle kind of environment. I school and listened to Libby’s friend teaches Midori talk about her inthem a ternship with the Japanese simple prime minister’s wife last routine. In summer, or watched Libby the Spring, struggle with the hundreds these middle of pages of reading she Libby Glennon studies in a hallway at Harvard. Photos courtesy of Colleen Glennon. school had to conquer that night, students are I lounged on their futon brought to Harvard to perform in front of the pressure together.” and wondered how seriously I was taking their friends and family. I happened to be Her other friend, Alan, (an English college. Should I be shooting higher? there this year. The show was in Memoconcentrator) said something similar. “It Should I be trying to get into an Ivy rial Hall, a building that hosts the most is a much different environment than high League myself? Would I ever be able to stain glass in the world. Latin words and school. I got used to it, though. The presachieve the legacy that they were headed phrases were engraved on the walls and sure is good for me.” for even by attending a different college? ceiling next to portraits of important-ish, I often wonder how these students Did I even want that? stoic men. I tipped my small head up and cope with the overwhelming amount of I haven’t answered all of these quesgazed at everything as we were ushered stress. For me, I like to sleep. But what tions yet. Whenever I leave Harvard, I into the auditorium. Massive marble about them? Everyone I talk to that atwonder if I would be happy if I went there. statues of intellects stood on shoulders of tends Harvard gets little to no sleep and All of those questions resurface to the the stage, watching disapprovingly. At the usually has no time for TV, reading, or any front of my mind as I drive home. The end of the performance, I tried to sneak other relaxing activity. For most people, further I drive, the smaller and smaller into Annenberg, one of the schmancier there is no coping. They work like maHarvard becomes in my mirror. Maybe dining halls next door. Only freshmen dine chines and push through the high amount I’m doing it wrong; maybe I should push there. No guests are allowed to dine or of work and pressure. For Libby, she tries myself to the brink of exhaustion in an tour inside the dining hall. Even pictures to find small ways to deal with the presattempt to rise to a more prestigious path. are prohibited. It is the epitome of private, sure. For example, she says eating with Maybe I should join 14 extra circulars off-limits. It seemed like a drastic contrast friends is a small thing that can make a and try to achieve higher grades. But for from our dining halls at Ithaca. I pressed big difference. now, I’m content simply driving down the my face against a small window to get a “I deal by making sure to eat meals highway, listening to Pink Floyd and eager glimpse of this forbidden place. The stuwith friends,” she says. “I know it sounds to get home to take a nap. dents inside glared back at me with hard dumb, but a lot of people work through eyes, acknowledging me as an outsider. I lunch and dinner. It’s the norm to work pulled my head back quickly, walked on, through. Meals are the only time there’s and continued to congratulate my sister no guilt, because socializing outside of
E H T EER'S L C I T N A H C UKEBOX J
By Norah Sweeney
A signature Ithaca bar keeps antique character admist modernization
Three red lamps hang low over the Chanticleer’s pool table, which is constantly employed, even though the expert poolsharks insist that either the table or the floor is crooked. A frustrated player can’t adjust his stick because of its proximity to the wall. The frosted mirror is watching the crowd of regulars at the far end of the bar for any signs of trouble. The bouncer, who has no IDs to check, fixes the tiny welcome mat when he notices that it has gone askew. The bar room is spacious, but the odd arrangement of tables creates an illusion of crowdedness. The claustrophobic pool players don’t bother cautioning onlookers
against their jolting sticks. After all, the regulars know better than to sit by their pool table. Hens and roosters of every size and art discipline cover The Chanti (a regulars’ term of endearment). A proud, silver fellow is mounted on the wall near the bar, a brood of ceramic hens clucks away behind a glass display case, and the calendar features 12 portraits of cockerels by long forgotten American naturalist painters who, for one reason or another, got their kicks painting poultry. On the wallpaper, hundreds of strange, quasi-art deco chickens listlessly strut, much like the bar’s patrons.
These patrons play a part in running the Chanticleer democracy. They bring their own mix CDs, filled with ballads that remind them of drinking under the bar’s dim lights. The most recent addition was “Popular Songs for Unpopular People,” a weepy sort of playlist driven mostly by Roy Orbison and The Smiths. For the first time in decades, last week, change swept through the far left corner of The Chanticleer’s bar room. The Stanton Automatic jukebox stood there since the bar’s opening in 1968, glowing with an off-white dullness and the unsleek design characteristic of the 20th century’s now antique machines. Now, a touch-screen
imitation of a jukebox, barely a quarter of the size of the old jukebox, sticks out of the wall and provides a never-beforeheard variety of top 40 hits. With the old Stanton Automatic went much of The Chanticleer’s recorded cultural history. “There was a very loose approval process for getting music added to the jukebox. I would OK it, and Rich [the owner] pretends to know who the bands are,” said Spike, a bartender who has worked at The Chanti for 10 years. Spike mills around the Chanti as though it were her home. In a loose-fitting sweatshirt and baggy pants, with a Pabst Blue Ribbon in hand, she shuffles toward the door to speak to Tom and watch the football game, and stops to chat with each of her friends, the regulars, sitting in their designated spots along the storied and slightly sticky bar. “If you can control the music, you can control the crowd,” Spike said. The addition of the digital jukebox, she says, won’t help with keeping out those whom she calls, “young, urban and a pain in my ass.” The decommissioned jukebox rejected everything newer than The Clash and The Stooges (left over from the devout punk rock contingency of the eighties, according to Spike), and was willing, on nights when the old crowd came in, to head for earlier days with Dizzy Gillespie and Muddy “Mississippi” Waters. The building that now houses The Chanticleer was built in 1867. It housed a bicycle repair shop and a grocery store through the 19th century. The Office Hotel occupied 101 W. State Street beginning in 1905, and took in strangers through Ithaca’s brief gig as the silent film capital of the Northeast, the Age of Wonderful Nonsense and the Great Depression. The gigantic neon rooster was illuminated for the first time, when the Chanticleer Restaurant opened its doors in Christmas of 1946. “It was a nice place for Ithaca. They served steaks and Italian, and semiformal attire was required. And the Rainbow Room upstairs had live music on the weekends,” said Rich, son of The Chanticleer’s first owner, Frank Leonardo. Frank placed ads for the restaurant in the Ithaca Telephone Directory that read,
“Famous for the new Rainbow Room,” and teased the city’s steak lovers while they looked up the plumber’s phone number. In 1968, at age 22, Rich came home after receiving a bachelor’s in business administration from Oklahoma State University to run The Chanticleer because his father fell ill. He’s been running the bar since—long after his father passed away in 1979. When Rich took over, he converted The Chanticleer from restaurant to bar. Insurance for kitchens was on the rise and running a bar was far cheaper, although the opposite is true nowadays. Throughout the seventies, Rich had his morning coffee at the bar, while third shift workers from the Morse Chain Factory on South Hill guzzled after work whiskey at 8:00 a.m. “[Those were] great days, with a great drinking crowd… there was a third shift guy who could drink a fourth of whiskey and show no signs [of drunkenness],” said Rich. In those great days of drinking, a shot of whiskey went for 75 cents. This premium service yielded a loyal group of First of the Month Club regulars, who frequented The Chanti throughout the ‘70s and ’80s. “I have friends who came in here every
weekend for 20 years, would sit with me at the end of the bar and have a few drinks. But I don’t see much of them anymore… not since the recession,” said Rich. The jukebox replacement is one of The Chanticleer’s only recent updates, thrusting the withering bar into a semimodern limbo state. Nowadays, The Chanti is tagged with textbook phrases like “dive bar” and “institution.” Food service folks who work at Commons restaurants occupy the bar’s four tables, because “this bar isn’t full of people that they saw all day, and wanted to kill,” according to Spike. But a steadily growing handful of in the know university students trendily occupy the standing area, admiring the decay of the American empire that they’re on the verge of inheriting. There is a thinning group of old regulars with Rich at the end of the bar; casting glances at the younger crowd that buys cheap drinks and disrupts the historical relative quiet. “Kids are crazier these days, and they drink more than they should. I don’t want my children to inherit this worry. I’m always concerned. I would like to retire, but I don’t have an exit strategy,” Rich lamented. But most patrons return to the Chanti for reasons probably similar to those of people who went for steaks in 1947. The Chanti, since its opening in 1968, has always been a haven for Tompkins County’s unsung social phyla, according to the woman in a large beige corduroy coat who proclaimed for the patrons on either side of her to hear, “It’s so nice to be in Ithaca, isn’t it? All the girls in Dryden are bitches.” For the moment, the bar’s massive neon Chanticleer illuminates State Street each evening between 4:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. He is the largest of the bar’s many decorative roosters, and is the most treasured, since he was grandfathered into the City of Ithaca’s neon sign ordinances. In an environmentally-conscious town that shows no signs of stopping its growing or modernizing, there continues to be a place for his energy inefficiency.
Keeping the Beat
IC students share love of music at juvenile detention center
By Carolyn Cutrone
Baruch Whitehead places his fingers on the keys of the piano pushed up against the white-cement wall and plays a chord. The 18-year-old boy sitting next to him peers down at the pattern of black and white keys and memorizes where he should place his fingers. He matches his up and repeats the chord. As the notes fill the air, his milky brown eyes slip shut. He’s gone for a moment, falling into the sound. “I get lost in the music all the time, honestly. You’ll know if I’m getting lost in the music, I won’t even answer you. That’s when I start dougying inside.” Before arriving, Baruch zips through sharply curved roads and endless fields of farmland in his white van filled with musicians. He drives the group quickly through the cold Ithaca air for the twentyfive minute drive, all the while chatting with them about the day’s events. Every so often he erupts in a fit of booming laughter. But he’s serious too, especially when it comes to discussing the goal for the day—teaching their selected song in a way that promotes quick success. Turning to Tito Reyes next to him, he begins to tap his leg slowly, right hand on his thigh, left on the steering wheel. Pat, pat pat. “Yeah we’ll do that beat,” he says. His body moves as he feels the lyrics to “Let it Be,” the selected song for the day. Tito nods his head in an upward scoop, replicating the metronome on Baruch’s leg. Two girls sit in the back of the van. Michelle Breitenbach is dressed head to toe in slacks and a blouse. Her bangs brush over her forehead and her smile gleams out ever so often when music re-enters the conversation. Lauren Smith’s long brown hair sits sideways on her shoulder, clasped in a ponytail. She taps Aiden Boardman in front of her, and shows him the sheet of music she’ll be using. “I’m going to use this, I think this format is a little clearer than the one we used last week.” He nods his head taking a close look at the letters spaced out on the white page representing notes: G D D C. The conversation evaporates slowly as the vehicle comes to a stop. Hands grab for folders and instruments, but leave all phones and jackets behind. One by one they hop out of the van to be greeted by a
towering layer of barbed wire. *** Every Thursday afternoon this group of musicians from Ithaca College visits young men at the MacCormick Secure Center, a youth detention facility in Brooktondale, New York. They bring with them a different song each week, along with their guitars, keyboards, drum sets and an intense passion for their craft. The boys in the MacCormick Center range from the ages of 14-20 and have been convicted of felonies. The program traces its roots back to Patricia Spencer’s Grant Writing class at Ithaca College. Last year, Spencer’s class wrote a proposal for a Creative Arts Outreach program to visit the MacCormick Center through an already established program called HEARD. Once the proposal gained support and funding from Ithaca College, the writing students teamed up with a few music majors and worked to make their idea a reality. Amelia Moore, a music performance and music education alumna, was a key member of this initial group. She has a strong connection to youth outreach because she volunteered for two years in an all-girls secured facility in Lansing. After seeing the Creative Arts Outreach program through its preliminary stages last May, she decided she had to stay in Ithaca after graduation to make sure the program’s initial year went smoothly. Because of students like her, who transformed the program from an idea to a functional class, it has made strides since last year. But more than Amelia’s drive, her pure compassion for people on an individual level defines her ability to connect with the boys. “If you don’t know where they come from, their ethnicity, their educational background, about their families, you really can’t begin to be compassionate toward [the program],” she said. “A lot of people can look at them as felons or what they did wrong but if we were all judged by what we’ve done wrong and our shortcomings of whatever expectations, the world would be a lot different,” Amelia said. When the boys arrive for their 45 min-
utes of music, a sea of red and khaki fills the room. The Delta unit passes through the doorways, each boy dressed in a red collared shirt tucked neatly into their pants. Lauren waits by her keyboard and offers her hand to each boy passing by. A tall, thin boy holds out his hand to Lauren. “Manuel,” he says as he grasps and releases her palm. Lauren’s eyebrows shoot up and a smile sweeps across her freckled cheeks. Once each boy introduces himself, he chooses an instrument and begins to learn his part. Before a few moments pass, notes clash through the air. The vibration of strumming strings, tapping triangles, pressing keys, and pounding drums bounces from wall to wall. Baruch surveys the room in a calm and collected state. His round cheeks rise into a smile often, but when he’s ready to teach, his muscles tighten and his eyes focus. There’s no messing around with his music. As he makes his way past the line of strumming guitars, he spots Manuel sitting slouched over on the rugged red couch tucked behind the door. “What’s your name, son?” He asks. “Manuel,” the boy replies. Baruch doesn’t hear him though. His voice is too low and the swarming notes of music are too loud. “Manuel,” he repeats as he squints his eyes up at Baruch’s tall sturdy frame. “Manuel, nice to meet you. Why don’t you come over here? I’m gonna teach you some chords.” “When I first got here, I didn’t want to [play music.] But the things [Dr. Whitehead] was doing convinced me to want to do it,” Manuel said. “He was telling me it’s easy, and this is what I could have been doing besides being out [on the streets] He’s just telling me better solutions of how to do my time well, besides trying to get in trouble all the time.” Manuel presses his long skinny fingers down on the white and black notes of the keyboard. Although he enjoys learning the piano, his true passion is dancing. He used to break dance and partake in talent shows in elementary school. Since the piano is a new form of expression for him, he appreciates the patience Baruch has when they sit down together, fingers moving in synchronicity. “He actually takes his time with a
person,” said Manuel. “He doesn’t rush through. He makes sure you know how to play it and he makes sure that you’re getting what he’s saying besides trying to hurry up and do something and then move onto the next thing without you knowing that one part.” Baruch’s experience as a professor at Ithaca College translates to his teaching at the MacCormick center. But perhaps the fact that he had two brothers who were in prison gives him a deeper understanding of the personal battles the boys he works with deal with day in and day out. He feels the program is a good fit for him. “It’s very interesting to me that all of the residents there are men of color and being a person of color myself, I think it was just a natural outgrowing for me in terms of wanting to go ahead and help and perhaps make a difference in the eyes of those young men that made some mistakes,” Baruch said. “If they can see me as a positive role model, being a college professor, than maybe it would help them make some better choices or say, ‘here’s a man of color that’s doing okay, perhaps I can do better in life, too.’” *** The tall metal lights that mark the border of the prison are as tall as the surrounding trees. The pointed edges form circular loops until they meet halfway at the entrance in the fence. The musicians from Ithaca College call this “the cage.” After they are buzzed in, the metal door slams behind them. Momentarily locked in the “cage,” they wait for the next door to be unlocked. “We’re gonna do some recording today. I need you guys to be on task. I need you to work,” Baruch announces as he strolls around the room and darts his eyes briefly at each musician working on their piece. “Bum, bum…bum bum.” Baruch sings the beat of the bass guitar setting the rhythm before the rest of the instruments enter into the melody. “Teach me how to play it and I’ll play it,” a boy says, sitting with his back up
against the wall, guitar in lap. Aidan walks over to the boy and bends down in order to be the same height as the boy sitting in the chair. He places the eager student’s fingers on the taught strings of the guitar. The boy looks down, eyebrows scrunching tightly. With one clean stroke he brushes the guitar. Aidan nods his head vigorously as his face illuminates with excitement. “Yeah, you got it!” He slides to his right to show the next guitar player their chord. In the center of the room, Lewis, the oldest resident of his unit, sits in front of the recording equipment. He is controlling the recording session, listening to each part separately in the computer as they stream electronically through the equipment. He is the leader of the unit. Mature, calm and focused, he works side by side with Baruch. Baruch continues to survey the room, making sure each section of instruments is on track—they have limited time. Behind him, one of the guitarists starts laughing loudly with the boy next to him. Baruch turns around quickly to address their momentary lack of focus. “Guys, guys, we came to work, not to fool around. You feelin’ me?” The boy looks up, his face serious. “I feel you.” “If you need to laugh, keep it in your big toe.” Baruch suggests. A few chuckles pass through the room and trickle out. Silence fills the air again. The piano comes in and Baruch looks straight at Manuel. He nods his head, feeling the music hit the perfect beat and move through the air, and then glances back to Lewis. “Alright Lewis, you got the notes?” Peering up from the equipment, his eyes large
through the magnification of his silver glasses, Lewis nods and presses record. “Alright here we go, see you at the end,” Baruch declares. *** Finally inside the building, each student takes a turn passing through the grey archway that is the metal detector. A loud beep sounds as Lauren passes through. A staff counselor holds a wand up to her body brushing up and down her legs and across her arms. “Lift your feet up,” she says. Lauren lifts each foot up in the air and a loud beep erupts from the wand. Her heel set off the noise. After each student has been inspected, they pick up their instruments and make their way through the last hallway to meet the boys. The counselor unlocks the door as her large metal key chain clangs loudly against the steal door. To Manuel, the simple fact that the students and professors from Ithaca College show up every week is enough for him. Growing up, Manuel never had the luxury of living in a stable household. His mother was addicted to drugs and his father struggled with the law, eventually landing himself in prison. When he was still in elementary school, Manuel decided to move to his grandparent’s house around the block. He felt his parents’ home offered him nothing valuable. “My grandmother gave me a curfew. She didn’t want me doing nothing [bad] but then she died. And after, that’s when I started to do actual things.” He found himself in trouble. Once Manuel’s grandmother passed away, he had to return to his parent’s house. It wasn’t long until he was arrested and eventually brought to the MacCormick Center to serve time. With
Photos by Bill Moss
Aidan Boardman teaches guitar to his section of the music class. Photo courtesy of Bill Moss. a jagged history of instability and a lack of guidance, Manuel isn’t quick to trust strangers. But he says he tries to give everyone a chance. “I’m not gonna lie, I was thinking, ‘this is some temporary thing and these people don’t even care about the people that are in here.’ And then they kept coming. And once they keep coming, it shows me that they look at [us] and they want to help.” And the program will continue. Pat Spencer’s Grant Writing class is currently working on a proposal to continue the program next year and expand it to other creative outlets such as writing. Unfortunately for one boy, he won’t be able to continue music, at least in the near future. Lewis moved on from MacCormick in early April and was transferred to an adult correctional facility when he turned 21. On the last day with the program, Lewis sat in control of the recording equipment so he could have a CD of the music he and his unit created together. Sam Underwood, an Ithaca College music student who has been working with the program all year, has been deeply moved by Lewis’s character. She said, compared to the other boys, although all respectful, his demeanor was different because he was always interested and naturally
wanted to learn more. As the year went by, Sam spent not just one semester, but two, watching Lewis grow musically and physically. Unfortunately, the latter made her realize his time was almost up. “Reading about [adult] prisons, I know that the small guys get beat up and the last few months he was trying to fill out muscles just to protect himself and that just made it so real. I can assume that’s why and I really started to notice that,” she said sadly. When the recording was finished and all the instruments were locked in their cases, Lewis remained behind his desk of electronics surrounded by a few students and Baruch. Their chairs in a circle around his muscular body, they leaned closer and spoke their goodbyes. “Looking at him, at most of the kids, but especially Lewis, it’s like ‘how did you end up here? And you have more time to do?’ It seems like, ‘what could you have done because you’re just this kind, gentle spirit.’” Lauren said. They touched his hand one last time and he smiled before saying, “It’s been a pleasure.” Peering down, the students and Baruch headed for the door. Sam shook her head as a hint of water welled in the corner
of her eye. “That was tough. That was Lewis’s last day.” Lauren nodded and shook her head towards the ground in solemn agreement. Leaving the metal “cage” locked behind them, the students and Baruch make their way out of MacCormick and to their white van. The tinted black window of the vehicle reflects the image of the harsh silver coiled fences for a moment just before they drive away. Remembering his first day at MacCormick, Aidan remembers one guitar player who felt the music transcend through their physical location and constraints. Aidan taught him three chord progression, one found in most popular music. Aidan’s fingers, indented from strumming each note precisely, finally stopped playing. He stood back for a minute and watched the boy try on his own. “Suddenly he just started jamming to all three and he just said, ‘I can hear it, I can hear how it’s all fitting in together.’ And then we played through a whole song and by the end he said ‘man this all went away for a second.’” The physical walls remind them often enough of where they are. But if music may hold the ability to vaporize their presence momentarily, that half-hour visit is worth it. Baruch stops the car one last time before pulling left out of the parking lot. Foot pushing down the pedal, the van glides through the long winding roads, now darker than when they arrived. “You have to have spirit, that want to be a mentor…to see it as we are here for you and you are here for us,” Baruch said. It’s a two way street for the Ithaca College students and the boys at MacCormick. Amelia Moore stayed in Ithaca because she was pulled into their world. She doesn’t look at the boys for a second as in a different place then her— in a literal sense yes—but looking past a one-dimensional perspective she sees it as all the same. “They still have goals and life in them even within those walls. If we think about it, we’re all enslaved, incarcerated to some kind of system, whether it be academia while we’re here or our economic system. Theirs are obviously much tighter walls but being able to see that they can set goals for themselves even if it’s to educate themselves or reach out to somebody beyond those worlds, I think that through the projects through the arts, they can make that tangible,” she said.
Comics by Benjamin Litoff; Illustrations by Emily Wortman