The Vindicator - November 2016

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Vindicator Cleveland State University’s Arts and Culture Magazine

NOV 2016

BLACK GIRL MAGIC the new positivity movement


the magic on CSU’s campus

video games the art and the culture

november is national adoption month read about the #fostercare movement sweeping CLE

a war on drugs in america public opinion & legalization

NOV 2 Letter from the Editor 3 Contributors 4 Online 5 Calendar ARTS 7 Beards in Cinema 9 Video Games: Interactive Art 11 Indicline Art Studio 13 Inter|Urban Art CULTURE 15 An Inneffective War on Drugs 17 Did the Civil Rights Movement Work? 19 20th Anniversary of Tupac 21 Under Represented in Activism FEATURE 23 Black Girl Magic 31 #Fostercare: Mobilizing a Movement 35 Healing Through Music SOCIAL ISSUES 37 How Much Longer? 39 A Letter to my Black Boyfriend POETRY 41 Ain’t I a Black Woman? 43 Spending Time 44 Men in Blue 45 Seasons 46 Lack of Carbination

23 #BlackGirlMagic

Learn about the movement sweeping social media.




eople often ask us if we have specific themes for each month. After working with this magazine for over a year now, I’ve realized that the theme of each month is born on its own, and for November I think it’s one of unapology and courage. In other words, the courage to be unapologetic in ourselves and our views. Too often we hold back our true selves because of society’s expectations, and the art we create is a way we can combat this. The first article that represents the beauty of being unapologetic is our cover story about #BlackGirlMagic by Sage Mack. One thing we pride ourselves here at the Vindicator is creating discourse through the power of not just words, but also different forms of art. This piece really embodies the “magic” of this movement, not only through Mack’s words but also the mesmerizing art created by our Art Designer, Nicole Zollos, Illustrator Beth Elliott and Photographer, Evan Prunty.

Accompanying this theme, we also have a very powerful spoken word poem by Danielle Harris titled Ain’t I a Black Woman, as well as a an analytic piece by Dwayne Castleberry and Kelton Latson about the Civil Rights Movement in America. For National Adoption Month, our Feature Editor, Holly Bland talked to Kevinee Gilmore, a Cleveland State alumni who fearlessly started the #FosterCare movement. We also have an article by Dorothy Zhao, which discusses Asian representation in America and the importance of understanding it. Every month is a growing and learning experience not only for us as writers, designers, and editors, but also as human beings. I hope our readers can also be inspired to not be sorry about themselves, their flaws, their achievements and their magic.



Faculty Advisor Julie Burrell Media Specialist Dan Lenhart

CONTRIBUTORS Editor-in-Chief Arbela Capas

Art/Creative Director Nicole Zollos Managing Editor Carissa Woytach Multimedia Manager Evan Prunty Culture Editor Elisabeth Weems Arts Editor Benjamin Heacox Feature Editor Holly Bland Copy Editor Kyrie Anderson Online Editor/Junior Designer Michella Dilworth Middleweight Designer Andriana Akrap Junior Designer Alyssa Miller Poem Designer Jessika Riane Poem Designer Rebecca Petro Contributing Writer Sage Mack Contributing Writer Jacob Brenkus Contributing Writers Dorothy Zhao Contributing Writer Gregory Elek Contributing Writer Kelton Latson Contributing Writer Caitlin Cole Contributing Writer Mary Nazimiec Contributing Writer Dwayne Castleberry Contributing Writer Joe Schmittgen Contributing Poet Danielle Harris Contributing Poet Ar’yana Allen Contributing Poet Laura Howard Contributing Poet Alana Whelan Disclaimer Magazine theft/fraud is a crime. Single issues of the vindicator are free, to obtain copies contact the Vindicator or student life. The content of the Vindicator does not necessarily represent the opinions of Cleveland State University, its students, faculty, or staff: nor does it represent the members of the Vindicator staff or our advisors unless otherwise stated. The editor reserves the right to comment on any issue that affects the student body in general as well as the multicultural community at large. Letters to the editors and other submissions are accepted, however they must have the authors name, address, major if applicable, and telephone number. All submissions become property of the Vindicator and the Vindicator reserves the right to edit submissions as deemed necessary. 2121 Euclid Ave, MC 471, Cleveland, OH 44115 216 687 2118 3 VINDICATOR | NOVEMBER 2016

*Updated correction in October issue: Eddy Marflak's official title is operations manager and booking agent of Blank Slate. Blank Slate is planning to apply for nonprofit status, but have not acquired it yet.


THEVINDI.COM Watch our interview with Annie Krol about her experiences working for an abortion clinic

“What do you think when you hear the word witch? Do you think a woman with green skin and boils, brooms and wands? How about the Harry Potter franchise? However, witches are more than just some hocus pocus. They, along with many other religions are not only real, but thriving in today’s society.” CONTINUE READING ONLINE

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what’s happening in...

First Friday Poetry Spectacular at Karma Café Presented by Lake Effect Poetry and The Poet’s Haven, this now-monthly event includes a featured poet, open mic and slam, sanctioned by Lake Effect. Broadcast live on Ustream, this free event is a great way for new poets to get their bearings, or experienced performers to potentially qualify for Northeast Ohio’s team and individual spots at national slam competitions. November 4 7PM, 4339 DRESSLER ROAD NW

Election Day

Get out and VOTE! You can find information on your local polling place, county or city issues and more by visiting your county Board of Elections. November 8 6:30AM TO 7:30PM

to the Future 12 Back Enchantment Under the Sea Party at The Side Quest

To celebrate a regular’s birthday, and her love of Back to the Future, Side Quest is throwing a birthday bash, 1950s-prom style. In usual Side Quest style, there will be a costume contest, themed cocktails, decorations and more. Grab your best gal or guy and head to this Lakewood hotspot for a night of general merriment and geeky fun. (21+ only). November 12 7PM, 17900 DETROIT AVE 5 VINDICATOR | NOVEMBER 2016

14 Andrew W.K. The Power of Partying at Capitol Theatre

A decade into his role as honorary party guru and motivational speaker, his latest tour will take him across the country, delivering a speech on living the party life, with an open Q&A to follow. “This is not a political party rally,” he states, “It’s a rally about partying with the political elements set aside.” Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of. November 14 7PM, 1390 W 65TH ST


All in the Timing at Black Box Theatre

Cleveland State’s Theatre & Dance department presents David Ives’ All in the Timing. This critically acclaimed, award-winning collection of six single-act plays is presented workshop-style in CSU’s Middough Building on the CSU Arts Campus. This event is free and open to the public. November 17 7PM, 1901 EAST 13TH ST, RM 521

18 CSU Design Exhibition & Open House at Middough Building

Have you been to the new Cleveland State University Arts Campus? Wondering what students in the design program are working on now? Come to the student design exhibition and open house hosted by AIGA CSU at the CSU Arts Campus. Meet current students, tour the recently renovated facilities, and view work from a variety of design courses from the freshman to senior level. Light hors d’oeuvres served. November 18 6PM, 1901 E 13TH ST


Rasheeda Speaking at Karamu House Theatre

Presented by the historic Karamu Theatre, Rasheeda Speaking examines a “post-racial” workplace, where two co-workers, one black, one white, are driven apart by their boss. This tense thriller follows the power struggle that follows, spinning the employees out of control. Adult tickets are $37, senior citizens are $32 and students under 25-years-old with ID are $15. Group pricing, minimum 10 people, is available. Visit Karamu’s website for more information. November 20 3PM, 2355 E 89TH ST



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IN CINEMA: When you stick around for movie credits (since everyone does that) most people get their dues, but there is a clear injustice in every movie. The beards. // Gregory Elek

Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic This beard is the everyman’s beard. It’s not down to his chest, it’s not a beautiful mess, it’s not shaved in any unique way. It’s just a simple straightforward beard, and sometimes we just need a good average beard to relate to. The beard also fits in wonderfully with the overall esthetic of the film, we spend a lot of time out on sea and the beard just feels right there. This beard doesn’t really do anything wrong. It’s clearly groomed and cared for, it fits the character, it’s grey blends in fine with its natural color. Overall a phenomenal beard.

5 beards out of 5

Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood Another very important beard, but a very difficult one to rate. Daniel Plainview only has a beard for about the first 20 to 30 minutes of the film, and then he has a mustache for the remainder, but that’s why this beard is so important; it has an arc. Much like Daniel Plainview going from a gritty miner to a suave business man it only makes sense for the beard to get trimmed down to a very nice classy mustache. I can’t give this beard full credit, due to it only being in a small part of this epic film, but when he has the beard it sure is a wonderful thick ball of manly pride, and the arc of beard on screen will most certainly be remembered as a great moment for beards in cinema history.

4.5 beards out of 5


Tom Hanks in Castaway This is a very important beard, because it’s the forced beard. Chuck Noland didn’t need or want the beard, but it was bestowed upon him by the beard gods, perhaps it was his only blessing while being stranded on that island, with the exception of Wilson the volleyball. Now this isn’t a perfect beard. There’s some grey it in, which can be perfectly fine if it was blended, but it’s just patches of grey here and there. It also looks dirty a lot, which is understandable with Chuck Noland being stuck on a deserted island at all, but he’s surrounded by water. At least try to wash it in the ocean. If you’re going to be forced to have a beard the least you can do is respect it, but besides that this is still a very nice beard. Good length and thickness.

4 beards out of 5

Alan Rickman in Die Hard I like to call a beard like this one the businessman’s beard. They’re essentially goatees with chinstraps. A beard like this is perfect for a character such as Hans Gruber. It’s screams “I need my secretary to push back that meeting” when he’s actually a terrorist holding an entire skyscraper hostage. It takes a lot to pull off a beard like this. Anytime you go with a chinstrap look you run the risk of looking like a frat boy who can’t grow facial hair but is trying to compensate for something. Luckily Rickman’s suave monotone performance that oozes confidence really makes this beard work. The only big problem with the beard is the chinstrap itself. It’s very thin and because of that at times it looks like Hans Gruber only has a goatee, which is a shame, but it’s still a rather nice beard.

3.5 beards out of 5


Wes Bentley in The Hunger Games This might be the most overrated beard in cinema history, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad beard by any means. This is the crafted beard. The beard that took time to look the way it does, and that’s important. Although this beard is definitely more on the artificial side than others, you can’t deny the craftsmanship it took to craft a beard like this. The curves must have been very hard to pull off and since it’s actually Wes Bentley’s facial hair that means it’s risky, because if they mess the beard up they’re really screwed. The complex beard also goes along nicely with Seneca Crane’s upper class character. Being overrated and a little artificial doesn’t stop this beard from being impressive and memorable.

3 beards out of 5


VIDEO GAMES: THE INTERACTIVE ART The art in video games is something that has a large impact on the user’s experience but is often overlooked. // Jacob Brenkus


ideo Games. You see them everywhere now. From people playing a Playstation 4 or Xbox One on their TV to people playing Pokemon GO or Candy Crush on their phone, there’s no denying the prevalence of video games in everyday culture. However, can one call them art? Certainly it shouldn’t go unnoticed that much of what goes into making video games is art (for example: concept art, music, design aspects), but are they themselves a work of art in the same way that a thought-provoking film, a classic painting, or a life-changing novel is? There are many people who would say, “no of course not,” but I’m here to prove that yes, in fact, they are. When a game is looked at in a highly critical and analytical light, one of the biggest things considered is how the visual design aspects benefit the experience of playing, or watching, the game. With games mostly being a visual medium in the modern era, aside from the occasional text based adventure that still comes around, good visual design can make or break a game. There is a common misconception that, due to advances in technology, the only logical way to progress visually is toward more realism, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. These advances in technology allow much more detail to be present create an outlet for more abstract art styles to come about in game design. Is it really true, though, that realistic graphics are the only design aspect that pushes sales? Actually no, there has been a great deal of praise, in the indie game scene especially, for games that adopt pixel art graphics and carry a retro feel, looking like games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, or even having a lower pixel resolution than that. With this being the case, it’s evident that there is much more to game design, especially artisti-

cally, than people might think. Since video games are an interactive medium, most visual design must have some effect on how the player will interact with the game. This can come in the form of visual cues, such as enemies taking a more sinister look, or a stronger enemy having defined features that set it apart. When playing Dark Souls, for example, one can easily point out an enemy that is more powerful in a group due to the fact the enemy could have glowing eyes or more armor. However, obvious visual cues can also be bothersome, such as the old trend of having a glowing weak spot on a boss fight or just putting arrows in the direction the player is supposed to go. These visual cues are meant to be helpful but lack an element of player discovery, which is crucial in good game design. Often visual elements and player discovery go hand in hand, take for example the first level of the original Super Mario Bros, something almost everyone is familiar with. When you start the level the placement of items to the right automatically draws your eyes there and gives you the impulse to move in that direction and discover what lies past the borders of the screen. Then when you come across the famous question block it’s glowing and has a question mark, a symbol of curiosity, this will make the player want to interact with it and see what happens. Even the secret parts of the levels that are found by going into pipes have visual cues tied to them. Think about it, Mario is a plumber and the pipes are larger than him, surely he can go down them and something can happen. These are some of many examples of the uses of these visual cues in gaming, such as pickups that float of the ground, interactive objects having a bit more detail and so forth. One thing that truly sets games apart from other forms of art though and makes

them special is the interactivity and how it can change something from simply telling a story with a few button prompts to you, the player, figuring out more and more about a lovingly crafted world. When you watch a film or look at a painting, you are viewing that world and only know about as much as is shown to you, while this can also apply to games, a well-designed game can change that entirely. In a game that’s well designed, you are learning more about these worlds, but only as much as you want to learn. If you’re playing Skyrim, and you don’t ever want to do any of the optional parts, you can. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to, but it’s possible. That’s the beauty of a well-designed game, when I played the new Doom they offered these lore filled flavor texts and some optional pickups, yet I honestly just wanted to shoot and dismember demons, so I ignored all of it, and that’s the beauty of an open ended, interactive form of art! Games allow the consumers to put a part of themselves into the work, really sets this art form apart. The level of immersion created by a well-designed game is unrivaled by any other form of art, you truly feel that you are a part of these worlds and that you can learn more about them in any way you see fit. I’m sure that there are those out there that will still view video games as mindless entertainment or just “games.” While in some cases that is true, the same will apply to other art forms such as the mindless Hollywood blockbusters that come out every summer, there are games out there that break this stereotype, and they do it well. If you go into video games with an open mind, you may gain a new hobby and an appreciation for something completely different. Give games a chance, with an open mind and the right outlook you will be pleasantly surprised. •


RECOMMENDED GAMES FOR VISUALS: Metal Gear Solid (1-3): One of the best stories in gaming, manages to find that balance between cinematic cutscenes and gameplay, for a game with such a cinematic feel it has very little hand holding. Superb gameplay mechanics, and well written relatable characters.

Hotline Miami: Great use of colors and art direction, very minimalist design that works well, killer soundtrack, difficult and rewarding mechanics, a morally ambiguous plot with a big twist, and a lot of violence make this game a wild ride.

Dark Souls: Some of the best art direction in video games. Great environmental and wordless storytelling. Emphasis on exploration and detail, rewardingly difficult, and great music make a near perfect experience.

Silent Hill: The essential horror experience in gaming. Amazing atmosphere, terrifying imagery, a disturbing story, and mechanics that make you think before you act.



A REIGN INDECLINE The west coast collective’s art and activism leading up to the presidential election

// Carissa Woytach


rt is often a reflection of reality, a reaction to the current political or social climate. Activism is no different — it causes shift focus; numbers swell and shrink as interests spark and recede. This election season has sparked art and activism the world over; this year’s issues are more polarizing than four years ago. Republican nominee Donald Trump and democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have been the subject of countless pieces, from simple graffiti on the sides of bridges and trains to guerilla art attacks. That’s where INDECLINE comes in. No Balls About It Taking the production and professionalism to the streets, this activist collective was recently propelled into the headlines with a mid-September stunt entitled “The Emperor Has No Balls.” And while the general public may not remember the piece by name, no one can scrub the viral image of the statue’s sagging old-man ass and micro-penis from their minds. INDECLINE is the group responsible for the naked Trump statue that made its short-lived debut alongside Coventry Road. While the Cleveland piece finished prematurely — taken down by police after only half-an-hour — the other four statues lasted much longer. Playing off the Hans Christian Anderson metaphor “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the group contracted began looking for someone to fabricate what they had in mind. Wanting to work with someone with a background in horror and special effects makeup — a reference to Trump’s monstrous persona — they contracted with Cleveland sculptor Joshua “Ginger” Moore. “The idea was, if you look back at history, there were so many dictators and tyrants that have been memorialized with a statue… the statue is a really strong and poignant form of respect and in most cases commissioned by the people themselves,” said a founding member of the collective. “After we took stock of all those different figures throughout history, we realized Trump is, despite not having his political career yet, he’s kind of paved his way into American culture, just through everything he’s done recently. So we figured this is a good way to commemorate him.” Taking almost six months to complete, statues appeared in New York’s Union Square, Seattle’s Capitol Hill, Hollywood, San Francisco’s Castro Street and Cleveland Heights Coventry Village, all on the same day. Teams of 30 or more people descended in broad daylight to install pieces, some looking out for police, others documenting the ordeal. All statues were strategically placed in

high-traffic areas by volunteers who took care to epoxy the pieces in more liberal social climates, including areas with a large LGBTQ population. “From our perspective, we knew these things were going to be on a kamikaze mission, so the idea was ‘Let’s put them somewhere where they’re not just going to be taken down immediately, let’s put them somewhere that might have a favorable reaction to it, based on the neighborhood,” he said. “If you look at the Castro District in San Francisco or Capitol Hill in Seattle, those are both very vibrant gay communities…so we knew if that statue popped up there [they] would be revered and not vandalized.” The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, the representative said, prompting plans for miniature six-inch figurines, as well as charity auctions of two statues — one at the famous Julian’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif., the other at Gray’s Auctioneers in Cleveland. The Art of Subtlety This now-infamous statue is not the collective’s first foray into charged statements. Formed in 2001 on the west coast, INDECLINE has close to two decades in the graffiti game. An anonymous representative, who has been with the collective since its inception, has seen the group’s membership grow from a half-a-dozen friends to between 40 and 60 people across the United States, Mexico, Spain, France, New Zealand, Greece and beyond. “It was everyone ranging from graffiti artists to filmmakers, photographers, everyone just had their own deal, but we all pooled resources together and started a collective,” he explained. “The main focus was to work on different pieces that were responses to any sort of social or economical, [or] ecological abuses carried out by American or foreign governments, officials, [and/or] law enforcement agencies.” Their focus includes responses to abuses of power, including #BlackLivesMatter to the more recent protests of presidential candidates, and can take the form of the aforementioned statue, videos, corporate billboard alterations and freight train graffiti. INDECLINE has had pieces in several countries, including multiple in Mexico, where the group has several members, the most recent being an anti-Trump piece on the board in Tijuana. In response to statements the presidential hopeful made in a speech about Mexican immigrants, ¡Rape Trump! depicts the business mogul with a ball gag overtop instructions on how to get to Trump Tower from Tijuana. Subtle isn’t in this group’s vocabulary.

It’s Worse Than You Think Funding themselves through their web store — which sells everything from “Fuck Trump” stickers to universal handcuff-key keychains — the collective can be described as a nonprofit, in a sense, the group’s representative said. “Part of what we do on our website is offer clothing and different tools of the trade, so to speak — spray paint, accessories — and we use 100 percent of those proceeds to fund our projects,” the representative said. “So we’ll essentially wait with a preproduction list of ideas and things we want to carry out, and once we have the funds to enact those through our sales, we will.” INDECLINE’s brand recognition wasn’t born overnight. The collective has amassed followers from their early days online, as well as through the popularity of a short movie they released titled It’s Worse Than You Think. The 50-minute production is a crash course in the social issues of 2003, from homelessness to capitalist revolts and riots caused by the Bush administration. The video includes newsreels from the coverage of the group’s billboard vandalism, splicing fisheye first-person shooting with skate culture and bum fights. The full film is available on the collective’s website. “That video was probably the first piece we put out that propelled us into any sort of spotlight,” he said. “From there, it was just different activations we’ve done around the world and publicizing those.” Now, with some of the largest illegal pieces under its belt, INDECLINE’s reign is far from over. As Election Day nears and tensions rise, the group is on to its next project. Sharing the love, it’s is planning a piece on Hillary Clinton in the coming weeks. At press time, the group’s most recent Clinton-related piece was Leaked Hillary Clinton Ad Campaign, seamlessly splicing scenes from the 1976 drama Taxi Driver with Donald Trump’s campaign speeches, ending with an approval from the former first lady. Due to the nature of the work, the representative declined to release further details on any upcoming pieces, but rest assured this isn’t the last the public has seen of the guerilla group. “When America gets ready to elect their president, the world watches us,” he said. “Being that out of the entire country, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the only two people we could find acceptable to run for our presidency, [which] in itself is pretty embarrassing…This is probably one of the most deplorable-looking elections we’ve ever had and it’s not really looking good for our country no matter how it turns out.”



THE INTER|URBAN: A JOURNEY THROUGH CLE ART & CULTURE New art put on display by Land Studios throughout Cleveland // Benjamin Heacox


n the months leading up to the RNC, Cleveland’s millennial renaissance period went hyperactive as the city prepared for the national spotlight. Most of Cleveland’s extreme overhaul was focused in the downtown area as sidewalks were repaired, old buildings restored, trees and flowers planted while street art and banners were erected along Euclid Ave. Access to city attractions like the Rock n’ Roll hall of Fame, Playhouse Square, and University Circle was central to the effort as Cleveland was dressed up and polished to shine for an entire week this past summer. As downtown underwent a storm of beautification, LAND (Landscape Art Neighborhoods Development) Studio, a Cleveland development firm, invested in a project to revitalize the RTA rapid line as visitors traveled into the city: The Inter|Urban Art and Culture Connector. Today, phase one of the project is complete and has left the rapid line beautifully transformed. The RTA (Regional Transit Authority) System is an essential part of Cleveland life as public transportation connects many citizens to their university, library, job, home and more. Thousands of people ride the RTA buses and trains each year from all walks of life, all connected to the life and culture of Cleveland.


The Inter|Urban Art and Culture Connector is an initiative of LAND studios, City of Cleveland, the RTA, NOACA (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency), and the Cleveland Foundation meant to transform a part of the RTA system – the red line west – from a journey through grey concrete into an exploration through a vast mural-of-CLE culture. “We hired two curators who were experts in painted murals and photography,” said Joe Lanzilotta, the main project manager for the Inter|Urban. The project’s success was heavily dependant on the connections those curators. Fred Bidwell, current co-chair of the Gordon Square Arts District (GSAD), provided the bulk of local contacts. Jaster Wong, acclaimed artist of Pow Wow Hawaii, contributed a broader pool of national talent, all eager to contribute to the massive CLE mural. Their search for artists began in December 2015. According to Lanzilotta, 300 artists responded to the call. Through a careful selection process, Bidwell and Wong whittled down the list to 19 artists. By early June 2016, phase one of the Inter|Urban was complete. Artists were encouraged to draw inspiration from recipients of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award: a literary award, rooted in in the

Cleveland Public Library, that is dedicated to stories that have contributed to the understanding of racism and love for diversity in human culture. “Lots of cities are making public art left and right,” said Lanzilotta. “We wanted to create a project that wasn’t just another mural… to start a discourse by viewing the work.” Structures along the red line track from Cleveland Hopkins into downtown are now covered in paintings, photography and murals that add texture and life to the rapid’s journey. The art itself is inspired by themes close to the heart of Cleveland — a diverse city that has waded through economic disparity and racial issues. Faces, quotes, paintings, textures, hands, color, and pure abstraction fill the train stations and line the tracks. The trains that connect locals and visitors to the inner city are now connecting passengers to Cleveland culture through the Inter|Urban project — a beautiful metaphor hidden in the art here. Phase two of the project will begin in 2017. LAND studios and their partners plan to cover all of the major rail lines in similar murals and photography including redline east, the green lines, waterfront lines, and more areas on the red line west. •

Keliy Anderson-Staley, photography professor at the University of Houston, created “50 Faces of Cleveland,” (one pictured below) a series of 50 tintype portraits along the Inter|Urban; all faces of CLE locals. The 50 portraits showcase the ethnic beauty of the people who live in the city. The sullen and honest expressions of locals stare directly into the camera lense, creating a powerful collection that engrains the collective face Cleveland into the cultural project. More of Anderson-Staley’s work can be viewed at www.

Photos of human figures appear to hold up the columns of the Tower City Station. Peter Larson, one of the Cleveland photographers selected by Fred Bidwell, uses these portraits to express his interpretation of the Anisfield-Wolf Award. “The artistic “teamwork” between a group of individuals – young, old, black, white, Hispanic - illustrates the idea of a community working towards a common goal, no matter how great the burden may be” said Joe Lanzilotta You can find more of Larson’s photography at


Brendan Monroe is an artist from Oakland, California dedicated to exhibition paintings and sculptures like the Inter|Urban. He drew his inspiration for this “upside down sea maze” (pictured on right) from the novel The Boat - the 2007 winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. In the novel, seven main characters must wade through various “stormy waters” in their lives. Monroe hopes that his piece captures the protagonists’ struggles to navigate through adversities and also serves as a reminder of impending storms of life, often with their own set of mazes and waves we must navigate in order to progress. More of Monroe’s exhibitions can be viewed at


AN INEFFECTIVE WAR ON DRUGS The evolution of public opnion and marijuanna legalization in the US. // Elisabeth Weems


very year in the United States, more than 1.5 million people are arrested for nonviolent drug offenses, nearly half of which are arrested for breaking marijuana laws, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This includes a disproportionate amount of black and Latino citizens, who are up to eight times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses than their white counterparts, depending upon the state. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that promotes drug policy reformation, the U.S. government currently spends more than $51 billion dollars on the ineffective “War on Drugs,” a term coined by former President Richard Nixon. Since then, many state governments have reformed and are currently reconsidering their marijuana laws. This is in response to both the emergence of scientific reports countering misconceptions and the public pressure to recognize the medicinal, social and economic benefits of legalization. Marijuana Explained Cannabis is a plant that originates in central Asia, where it has been used for more than 4,000 years. There are two distinct kinds of the plant: industrial hemp and marijuana. For the last century, marijuana has been a smoking-hot controversy in America for its high levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychotropic compound known for its mind-altering effects. On the contrary, hemp is grown for its fibers and contains very little THC. It can be used to make rope, paper and numerous other industrial and consumer products. Until the 1890s, the U.S. government encouraged the domestic cultivation


of cannabis to produce industrial hemp, solely for economic prosperity. However, the recreational use of marijuana was stigmatized in the early 1900s for its association with Mexican immigrants, who introduced its recreational use to the American culture, according to National Public Radio (NPR). During the Great Depression, high levels of unemployment led to heightened anti-immigration sentiment. This gave rise to fallacious research that linked marijuana to crime and other social problems, and a propaganda campaign that demonized its users. By 1931, marijuana was outlawed in 29 states and in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act effectively criminalized the plant. Throughout the 1950s, the federal government enacted stricter drug laws and set mandatory sentences for drug offenses, most of which were repealed by Congress in the 1970s for their ineffectiveness. During the ‘70s, conservative parents lobbied to make marijuana illegal and had a strong influence on both Congress and public opinion. In 1971, former President Richard Nixon declared the “War on Drugs.” Years later, former President Ronald Reagan expanded the war and signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. This reinstated minimum sentences for drug offenders, which led to skyrocketing incarceration rates. From 1980 to 1997, the number of people jailed for nonviolent drug offenses increased from 50,000 to 400,000. The Role of Governmental Agencies Marijuana still remains on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) list of Schedule I drugs, alongside substances like heroin and LSD. The 1970 Controlled Substances Act defines Schedule I drugs as

those having a “high potential for abuse” and that have “no accepted medical use.” Given the legitimate, medicinal benefits of consuming marijuana under medical supervision, it does not make sense that it is illegal when the consumption of alcohol — which was responsible for killing about 29,000 people in 2013 — still remains legal. There is an ethical problem when the government legislates the people’s right to use a natural medicine, which forces people to subvert the law to seek treatment alternative to pharmaceuticals. Also, it results in the creation of the black market because it provokes opportunists and the impoverished to sell marijuana to financially support themselves. The U.S. Federal Drug and Food Administration (FDA) has not approved the consumption of marijuana and has stated that it will not until a substantial amount of conclusive, controlled studies thoroughly research its effects. However, the FDA stated that it is aware of the growing interest in marijuana’s ability to treat a number of medical conditions. This includes glaucoma, AIDS, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, insomnia and certain seizure disorders like epilepsy. This refusal to recognize the health benefits of marijuana highlights another hypocrisy in America’s federal law: cigarettes, which kill more than 5 million people each year, and pharmaceuticals, like Amphetamine and Methadone, are both FDA-approved and legal. Throughout the span of

centuries and countries in which it’s been used for a multitude of purposes, no one has ever died from consuming marijuana, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Media Portrayals & Misconceptions Much of the opposition against marijuana legalization and consumption is fueled by the belief in myths that have permeated American culture for more than a century. The campaign to demonize marijuana and its users during the 1930s resulted in the emergence of multiple faulty and long-standing beliefs. The most notable film of the time was entitled “Reefer Madness,” and portrayed marijuana smokers, mostly blacks and Latinos, as violent, insane and ravenous. According to the Pew Research Center, opposition to marijuana is fueled by the belief that legalization may hurt society, that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive substance, and that it may lead to the use of other drugs. However, these claims — typically held by older generations — have been disproven and are simply untrue. In movies like the Cheech and Chong series, “Dazed and Confused,” and “How High,” the emergence of the “stoner” archetype has permeated through popular culture. Marijuana users were, and continue to be, depicted as unintelligent, lazy and unproductive members of society who do nothing but get “high” all day. Truthfully, marijuana users are diverse and include people who are using its medicinal properties for the legitimate ailment of illnesses. This includes children, lawyers, teachers, legislators, actors, intellects, the elderly and the disabled. This stereotype has made it difficult to argue the legitimacy of marijuana use for medicinal or personal reasons. Also, consuming marijuana has been stigmatized simply because of its illegal status. On the contrary, discussing alcoholic

intoxication and even prescription pill usage is socially accepted. Another myth that exists is that marijuana kills brain cells. This was concluded through a faulty experiment in which Rhesus monkeys were hooked up to ventilators that pumped marijuana smoke into their lungs, causing suffocation. It was the suffocation, not the marijuana, that caused brain cells to die. However, this false belief still stands, as do the beliefs that marijuana usage leads to using heavier drugs, that people can overdose on THC, that hemp gets you “high” and that marijuana is psychologically addictive. All of these claims are untrue. Hemp is also classified as a Schedule I drug — despite its abysmal levels of THC — because of its economic potential to compete with tobacco, cotton and a plethora of other consumer products. Hemp is one of the most versatile fibers. It can be used to replace a number of unsustainable substances, but whose production our economy has depended on for profit. If hemp and marijuana were federally legalized, the markets could reasonably compete with the pharmaceutical industry — the largest, legalized drug dealer — and the oil and cotton industries. Public Perception & Legislation Many people associate the 1960s with the “hippie” counterculture, known for its anti-Vietnam War attitude and its recreational use of marijuana. However, in 1969, only 12 percent of Americans favored marijuana legalization, according to the Pew Research Center. During this era, the government, under Richard Nixon’s presidency, put a temporary halt to all scientific studies of marijuana and its medicinal effectiveness, in light of the political hysteria about drugs. As of 2015, that number has risen to a majority of 58 percent, according to a Gallup poll.

MYTHS ABOUT MARIJUANNA It kills brain cells

It has no real medicinal use

It’s a gateway drug

Hemp gets you “high”

All users are “stoners”

You can overdose

Prohibition is effective

It’s physically addictive

This change in public perception about marijuana can be partially attributed to advocacy groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Founded in 1970, NORML aims to shift public opinion toward favoring the legal and responsible use of marijuana by adults. Danielle Keane, political director of NORML, explained that state-level authorization can be used as a concrete example to dispel opponents’ uncertainties or fears. “Decriminalization is the first door to open in addressing policy changes that we want to see,” Keane said. “It’s a complete contradiction because we see voter opinion all over the country in favor of legal and just medicinal and recreational use, and we haven’t seen federal regulation to reflect that.” Since 1996, 25 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized the consumption of medicinal marijuana to patients with a doctor’s recommendation, and four states have legalized recreational use. However, the individual states that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana are acting in direct violation of federal law. This discrepancy exemplifies the inconsistency between federal and state laws, which leaves dispensaries that are legal within their states in a position of still committing a federal crime. Rescheduling marijuana and federally legalizing its consumption has yet to happen, but President Barack Obama has even expressed that state-level legalization may eventually have a federal impact. “At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, Congress may then reschedule marijuana,” Obama said to Vice News in March 2015.


DID THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT REALLY WORK? Two perspectives on the outcome of the civil rights movement. // Dwayne Castleberry & Kelton Latson


lack rebellions against racial oppression have occurred since the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The first recorded rebellion was in 1663 in Gloucester County, Virginia. Enslaved Africans planned to free themselves but were betrayed by a fellow servant. In 1831, Nat Turner’s rebellion left 60 of his captors dead. The following 30 years would see the rise of the Underground Railroad and the escape of over 75,000 slaves, and later in 1866, the abolition of slavery. In the 1920's, Marcus Garvey came to the US from Jamaica and created the United Negro Improvement Association, which became the largest African American organization in history. Garvey encouraged African Americans to re-connect with Africa and its fight against colonization. Jim Crow laws dominated from 1870s through the 1950s when many Black citizens began to protest the government. Through sit-ins, boycotts, and marches, the popular Civil Rights Movement was born. So did the Civil Rights movement work? Partially, but ultimately, no. The many movements of the 50s and 60s can't be bunched into one because the goals differed greatly. There were different forms of Pan-Africanism encouraging African Americans to unify with global Africans. Others focused on strategic ways to change laws. Some wanted the protection of law but wanted to remain separate while others wanted different levels of integration. Many Blacks fought back with militant means. If there was a unifying factor of all these movements, it would be the dire need for equality and justice, which didn’t happen. The government sanctioned assas-


sinations and considered Black protestors as the greatest threat to the country. It wasn’t that activist methods were ineffective, but that resistance from the CIA, the FBI, local police and militia groups like the Klu Klux Klan were there to crush every success. If the Civil Rights Movement was unsuccessful, why is it the most revered movement in modern history? The movement was birthed while television became popular and news stations began to air civil rights marches and protest. Abuse of Black citizens was a social norm so police and White citizens didn’t hide their brutality at first, which led to unprecedented documentation of lynch mobs and other forms racial violence. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is considered by some the beginning of the end of the Civil Rights Movement because many began to withdraw from the movement in preference of the Voting Rights movement. The problem was that this brought more violence. Blacks started large voting campaigns and gathered by the bus load to go vote. Racists groups also campaigned to stop Blacks from voting using violent means. The unity created by the movement was combated by violence and psychological warfare. The large rallies of the Civil Rights movement were diminished into smaller and less publicized fights. The cultivation of Black communities lessened as many Blacks chose to build within White neighborhoods. Many hoped that integration would stop the oppression but found themselves in the same predicament albeit modernized methods of racism. The Civil Rights Movement was successful in exposing racism to the masses and

gaining the right for blacks to vote, but these achievements were destroyed by resistance. In exposing racism on television to the masses, a more covert form of racism was born. Racism became a behind-the-scenes system because of the shift in popular ideology. The power of television was used to paint a criminal image of Black citizens to combat the powerful images left by martyrs of the movement. Media racism wasn’t new, but it was solidified by the moving images of television and film. The abolition of Jim Crow laws was a landmark success but wasn’t celebrated for long. The laws were replaced by policies and social norms that kept Blacks on the bottom of the U.S. social system. Although the laws no longer specifically targeted Black citizens, judges would give excessive sentences to Blacks. Just the accusation of a crime almost became a conviction for any Black citizen. Obtaining the right to vote was considered the move that made Blacks equal with Whites by some. The Civil Rights Movement was replaced by the Voting Rights Movement. Many Blacks began to protst to other Blacks to vote racism out. The Black community came out in record numbers to vote, but equality and justice still weren’t achieved. Any politician who talked about Black oppression would immediately become an outcast. The most famous political assassinations of the time were Senator Robert Kennedy and his brother President John F. Kennedy. Both were outspoken about injustice. The fight continues. After the Civil Rights Movement, racism became more organized. The Black Power Movement of the 1970s

rallied Blacks to become more militant in their approach. The government killed the leaders and forced many others into hiding. The War on Drugs of the ‘80s and ‘90s destroyed most Black movements as the government systematically introduced drugs into Black neighborhoods. The ‘90s brought the immense growth of the school-to-prison pipeline. The early 2000’s brought gentrification to many neighborhoods, destroying the remaining Black communities. This led to the mortgage crisis that gripped the nation.


he Civil Rights Movement occurred during the time of Jim Crow laws, which kept black and white people segregated from one another based on the the racist idea that blacks were inferior to whites. Segregation, a word that is rarely defined correctly, means to force a certain group of people to one area and to keep them away from another group of people who are deemed superior. While the inferior group of people live in one area together, they do not control the resources in that area. The area in which they live is controlled by outside influence that is forcing them to live there. Jim Crow laws kept black people from voting, drinking from whites-only water fountains, eating at white-owned restaurants, attending white-only schools, forced them to ride on the back of the bus. The purpose of the Civil Rights Movement was to fight to obtain the same access to resources that whites had access to. The fight during the 1950s and 1960s should have never been called a Civil Rights Movement. Instead, it should have been considered a human rights struggle. When calling for civil rights, black people limit themselves to the jurisdiction of the US government, who violated their rights in the first place.When we call our movement or struggle a civil issue, then we are saying that the oppression we as black people are dealing with is only a problem here in the States. If we’d called our movement a human rights struggle then that would expand

our struggles to a global scale. You can’t receive a civil right if you do not first have your human rights, which are your God-given rights. Civil refers to the rights we have as citizens and here in the US, at one point in time, black people were considered only three fifths of a human, and with Jim Crow laws being in place, it reinforced the idea that we weren’t human. If our issue is a civil issue, then that leaves the problem in the U.S Supreme Court’s hands. Had we upscaled it to human rights and globalized our struggle then we could have taken our problems to the United Nations, which is the world’s court. Several different countries such as Gambia, Zambia, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo received their independence during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. All African countries who received their independence were liberated from European countries including Britain, France and Belgium. South Africa was also dealing with the same racial tensions during the time of the race struggle here in the US, and they took their fight to the United Nations. Pan-Africanist leaders such as Malcolm X believed that black people here in the U.S needed allies to help make the fight stronger. This is why making our struggle a global fight is important. When black people here expand their horizons outside of the US, they would learn that there are other black and brown people dealing with the same problems caused by the same power structure. Malcolm X stated in his speech titled The Black Revolution, “You can’t understand what is taking place here in Mississippi if you do not understand what is taking place in the Congo.” What we as blacks must understand is that white supremacy works on a global scale, but the idea of civil rights conditions black people here in the states to only care about US’s problems and to think that African struggles aren’t the same. Several African countries received their independence because they formed unions. Malcolm X made sure to enlighten African revolutionary leaders about the struggle that millions of people here who have

roots to the continent of Africa are facing. He said that it is hypocritical to go to the UN and charge countries like France and Britain for their racist practices, but not the US. The goal was to unite all people of African descent and to press charges against the US for its racism. When blacks have the idea of creating and having our own community, we get labeled as racists or are accused of wanting segregation back. Keep in mind the definition of segregation that was earlier explained. Communities like Chinatown are controlled by Asians, but we do not call that segregation. Communities like Little Italy are controlled by Italians, but we do not called that segregation. It is only when black people want that for themselves that the label of segregation comes into play. We have been taught that anything that is black is bad and does not compare to anything that is white, including the everyday things we do as people such as black businesses, black schooling, banking, anything that relates to a form of group economics. When we integrated, there was no compromise. White people did not have to give up anything in order for integration to happen. Black people gave up everything that makes a community strive in order to integrate and by doing so, it shows that we view ourselves as inferior to whites. Integration is assimilation and when looking back at the Civil Rights Movement it seems that the fight was only to gain white validation instead of black liberation. Currently, we are in the post-racial era. Post-racial doesn’t mean that racism no longer exists, it just means that many have decided it’s not relevant anymore. This era also boast the birth of a new mass movement focused on the importance of Black life. Although some in the Black community feel that President Barack Obama hasn't done enough, he was a symbol that encouraged many to stand up against injustice. The next movement is here. Will you be a hero or an oppressor? •



THUG LIFE MOVEMENT: TUPAC, 20 YEARS LATER An analysis of the life of Tupac Shakur. // Kelton Latson


eptember 13 marked the 20th anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death. Tupac, one of hip-hop’s most influential stars of the ‘90s, is known for his thought-provoking lyrics in songs such as Keep ya head up, Brenda’s got a baby and Dear Mama. Raised by a family of Black Panther Party members, Tupac was very knowledgeable of the many governmental tactics that have ruined the black community. He was also popular for sparking controversies that kept under heavy public conviction, from his feuds with multiple artists to his hardcore lyrics that were blamed for encouraging street violence and violence towards law enforcement officers. This includes songs such as Strictly for my N.I.G.G.A.Z, in which he raps, “I’m not violent, I’m petrified and nervous. I got no mercy for these niggas tryna serve us, but if you catch me outta pocket then I’m got. You love to shoot a nigga but you scared to pop a cop.” In this song, Tupac questioned the thought process of young, black males when engaging in violence. He challenges the quick reaction of killing fellow black males for either disrespecting them or for no reason at all, but their hesitation to react to racist police officers who terrorized black communities. When reflecting on Tupac’s influence 20 years after his death, one could sit back and think of the way he made us feel through his music. One of the skills Tupac had was the ability to make the listeners feel connected to the pain he felt. You knew that Tupac meant the words he recited and couldn’t help but feel his pain and heartbreak when he talked about his mother or the 12-year-old pregnant Brenda, and you certainly nodded your head when he spoke about injustice. If you ask what kind of person Tupac was, chances are that you will get ten different versions of him. He had two sides that we, as fans, friends, family and even critics, were aware of.


On one side, Tupac was loving, sensitive and passionate about the conditions of black people here in the US and dedicated his entire rap career to giving black people from “the gutter” a voice. Coming from the gutter means to come from nothing. It means that one comes from a place where no human being is expected to survive or to be able to withstand for a long time without losing control of their sanity. In his song, My Block, he talks about looking back at his upbringing in his old neighborhood and how it has molded everybody, including youth, to lose touch with their humanity. In the songs he raps, “My neighborhood ain’t the same, cause all the little babies gone crazy or they sufferin’ in the game.” Tupac never wanted to shake away from his upbringing and from the people he grew up with. He saw the importance of not leaving people just like him behind to suffer. What made Tupac so loved by black people in inner city ghettos was that he never let his money and fame make him forget the struggle he came from and the struggle that black people were, and still are, facing. “The one thing we do have in common as black people, is that we share that poverty,” he said in an interview with Ed Gordon “So the thug side is [closer] to the poverty than me being rich.” Tupac will always be remembered as a black artist who was genuinely down for his people. In the public eye, Tupac was known as the hard, rough and rugged street thug looking to destroy anything in his path. This image led him to numerous encounters with law enforcement. In addition, he was involved in an intense war known as the east coast/ west coast rap feud that involved two of the most dominant record labels in the 90s. Bad Boy records was led by Sean P. Diddy Combs and hip-hop legend Biggie Smalls, and Death Row records was led by Suge Knight and Tupac. Tupac, angered and frustrated after

being shot and robbed inside of a New York recording studio, felt that Biggie, whom he consider a friend, should have told him that there was a hit being set up against him inside of Biggie’s studio. Tupac’s outraged, public outburst against B.I.G and Bad Boy records painted a different picture of Tupac and portray him as the bad guy. Tupac’s talks of violent altercations would then give him the image of a walking contradiction, as he often talked about stopping the violence between black and brown men. All of these mixed emotions coming from Tupac were coming from a place that he fought hard to get the public to understand. Though Tupac talked about peace and nation-building one minute and then would show a side of anger and rage, it doesn’t mean that he was, himself, a contradiction. It shows that the struggles that we as black people are battling are so strong that we’ll never be able to walk a perfect line. Tupac’s compassion for life comes from the suffering he experienced and witnessed, and so does his anger. Tupac’s emotions are a product of the troubling conditions that he and other black people in the ghetto face and have internalized. To understand Tupac’s thinking, we must reflect upon his upbringing. He is the son of Afeni Shakur, who was once a Black Panther Party member associated with the New York Chapter 21. He was also the stepson of political activist Mutulu Shakur, a member of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM). Afeni Shakur was pregnant with Tupac during her trial in which she was accused, alongside with several other Black Panther members, for conspiring to bomb New York public train stations and police stations. Tupac was raised to be conscious of the world by his mother, and not only to be conscious of the world, but of life as a young black male growing up in the US. Tupac’s mother would later develop a crack addiction which lead


to Tupac to never have a steady home growing up. He spent some of his young teenage years in Baltimore, Maryland where he would attend Baltimore School of the Arts but not finish. Tupac would then make his way out to Oakland, California, where he got his first start musically with hip-hop group Digital Underground. Once connected with the group, he went on to publish his first album, 2pacalypse now, which was a controversial album due to songs such as Violent, Soulja Story and Trapped, which were critical of law and talk about rebelling against police. Oakland is known for its long history of police brutality and was where the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. It was a city of poverty and violence when Tupac moved there. Tupac was a victim himself of police brutality when he was caught jay-walking across the street. Police officers chastised him about his name and repeatedly bashed his face into the pavement. Tupac, raised by black political leaders, took his knowledge of the struggle and converted them into his rap lyrics. He stirred up so much trouble in the early 90’s that Vice President Dan Quayle suggested that the Time Warner subsidiary Interscope Records withdraw his record. “It has no place in our society,” he said. Quayle blamed Tupac’s song Soulja story for the death of a Texas state trooper who was shot by a teenager who was listening to the song on his cassette tape. What most people do not know about Tupac is that he was the national chairman of

the New African Panther Party. The objective of the organization was to educate all brothers and sisters who were incarcerated and to gear them towards political action. Tupac’s association with the New African Panthers linked him up with Sanyika Shakur, formerly known as Kody Scott, who was a former Crip gang member. Sanyika joined and became close friends with Tupac. Tupac, Sanyika, and Tupac’s step-father, Mutulu, came up with the slogan, “Thug Life,” and decided to make it into a movement for the new generation of young black people in the ‘90s. The word “thug” is commonly mistaken for being a criminal, but the slogan means to grow up with all odds against you and to still be able to succeed. It was created for the new generation of brothers and sisters growing up in the slums and became the modern version of the Black Power Movement. Its goal was to educate all black and brown people about the conditions they live in, who created them, how to overcome them, unite and build. A large tool of the movement was to unite street gangs, primarily Bloods and Crips, and to get them to focus on political activism. The movement however, was deeply misunderstood and was used against Tupac throughout his career. Tupac was often blamed for a lot of the gang violence that took place in the 90s amongst black youth because the mainstream media associated the Thug Life Movement with negativity. John Potash, author of The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Other Black Leaders, wrote about how the Los Angeles Police Department had a

4,000+ page documentation on Tupac because of his association with black political leaders and groups. He also wrote about how he believes Tupac faked a thug persona for the Thug Life Movement. It was always believed by those who never took the time to understand Tupac, were critical of his views and who thought he was just an actor and his tough side was no more than a gimmick. An argument can be made that Tupac switched his lyrical content from talking about social issues to street violence, which was labeled as “Gangsta Rap.” This makes sense because his goal was to unite both Bloods and Crips so that they could be political organizations, and since both gangs were fans of his, it meant that they would listen to what he had to say, which is something that most black leaders after the Black power movement have failed to do. The reason behind Tupac’s Thug Life Movement is similar to the reason behind the Black Power Movement. The Black Power Movement was started by black youth in the late ‘60s who felt that the generation who led the Civil Rights Movement dropped the ball. Tupac said in an interview with Ed Gordon that “the generation before not only forgot about the fight, but they forgot about us.” Tupac’s entire life is what makes those of us who love his music love his mind, personality, and passion so deeper than any other artist. Tupac’s impact is still felt to this very day. He is still arguably the greatest hip-hop artist of all time, even twenty years after his death.•


UNDER REPRESENTED IN ACTIVISM: THE “MODEL MINORITY” Asian Americans do not participate in activism as much as other minorities, though it should be encouraged. The community as a whole should dispel the “model minority myth” to voice their opinions and back their causes. // Dorothy Zhao


ctivism is inspired by a wide range of topics, from race to animal rights, but it lacks the presence and participation of Asians and Asian Americans. Minorities are often the communities that spring to action to fight for rights; the ones who understand the plight of others or the ones who are or have been disadvantaged. Additionally, those who are more privileged have their voices as well, the capacity to speak out for rights. They too can contribute to enlightening discussions and make progress in righting wrongs. Without showing solidarity, change cannot happen particularly quickly. In China, the student-led demonstrations of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests — which my parents participated in — exemplified solidarity among students, albeit with halted political reform. However, in America today, one major group, composed of myriad ethnicities, stands out in their absence of supporting causes. This community of East Asian and South Asian Americans is known as the “Model Minority.” Asian Americans are underrepresented in activism, but young, college students can activate themselves and should do so, as we still face oppression and should fight against that of others.


The Model Minority Myth

Asian Americans make up 5.8 percent of the total American population, as of 2011. The positive portrayals in movies, books and TV shows that Asians are hardworking, emphasize family connections and have both the pressure and drive to succeed have been confirmed by the data. A study by Pew Research Center shows that Asian Americans now have the highest income and are the best educated and fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. These characteristics result in the ability to attain a respected status in society and to fulfill the so-called American Dream of

achieving success and prosperity through hard work, initiative, and determination. In fact, Pew also found that Asian Americans make an average of $66,000 per year, in comparison to the general public’s average salary of just below $50,000. Of course, not all Asian Americans are as well-off as many Chinese-, Japanese- and Korean Americans who are more privileged. Vietnamese, Cambodian, Bangladeshi and Hmong Americans, among other groups, tend to be economically and socially disadvantaged. The number of Asian Americans — a current total

of 2 million — living in poverty has actually increased from 2007 to 2013. Among the Hmong, Bangladeshi, Cambodian and Vietnamese people, poverty rates are 37.8, 26, 18.5 and 16.6 percent, respectively. The data shows enough: Despite the common perception and even aforementioned data, certain groups of Asian Americans continue to be increasingly impoverished. There are indeed poor Asian Americans living in Chinatowns and other ethnic enclaves. These Asian Americans can neither afford private SAT tutoring nor costly violin lessons. Many are immigrants or are the children of immigrants suffering from traumatic war experiences and subsequent mental illnesses. The lack of quality education and the challenge of escaping poverty means that these minorities do not fit the “Model Minority” stereotype. The Model Minority myth only serves to skew the public’s perception and gloss over the day-to-day concerns of poorer Asian Americans. Because every Asian in America is perceived to fit this mold, these poverty-stricken communities are not given a voice or a chance to alleviate their current struggles. Their legitimate efforts to better themselves are made illegitimate because Asian Americans are depicted as well-off and without issues to protest about. This begs the question, of how Asian Americans view themselves, their experiences as a collective race and their position within the U.S. population. According to Pew, approximately half of the Asian American population do not view themselves as “typical” Americans, and nearly 1/5 of the Asian American population claimed to have experienced personal discrimination in the past year. This suggests an acknowledgement in Asian Americans’ minds that we do not fit in perfectly, whether it be in schools, workplaces or elsewhere.

Racism and Its’ Consequences

When Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, was beaten to death on the night of his bachelor party in 1982, the Asian American community was outraged. Today, more than thirty years after Chin’s murder, Asian American activism is still nowhere near as prevalent as it can be. Yet, we Asian Americans have certainly felt the effects of institutional and systemic racism, perceived racism and racial microaggressions. Applying to college opened my eyes to the conflicting sides for and against Affirmative Action. How would my standardized test scores compare to my other overachieving Asian peers, and was it fair that my scores would be scrutinized on the expectation of higher scores? The consistent stream of questions I have fielded since first grade — Where are you from? Where are your parents from? Can you say something in Chinese right now? — have never ceased to simultaneously amaze and disappoint me. Surely, by now, a peer of mine would have met enough Asian Americans to realize we are not all the same and that I was born in America, just like them. The ignorance of many classmates was

never ameliorated until I provided explanations to their questions. Additionally, learning about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 — one of the most significant immigration restrictions in American — in my U.S. Government class frustrated me. Why had I never heard of the act before? This government action, and later the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, were historical events rarely emphasized in my previous classes. Asian Americans must understand their own culture’s history instead of assuming that they are disconnected from it. If we fail to remember the racism we have experienced, history may repeat itself. Despite being repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943, this dark piece of legislation in American history should not be forgotten lest racism against Asian Americans rise once again, like it did during the California Gold Rush and building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Asian Americans of all generations must remember that the country they live in once did not accept them and may not accept them today. To fully overcome these historical instances of racism, we must also address the following controversies: First, the lack of representation in media and politics, due to Hollywood and Congress being unconcerned with casting roles or considering the Asian vote. Secondly, the Asian American wealth gap and disparity, where poorer Asian Americans are ignored and the “bamboo ceiling” (which are barriers that exclude Asian Americans from executive positions due to subjective factors like lack of “leadership potential” or “communication skills”) is a genuine obstacle this demographic faces in the workforce. Finally, looking outside the community, the police brutality and racism experienced by African Americans and other minorities. Representation of the Asian American in activism is fundamental in turning the tide of racial inequality. The “Model Minority” needs to confront insidious issues and establish a presence in protests across the country. The easiest way to implement this is through the younger generation — namely, the college students. Asian Americans and College Activism Here on Cleveland State University’s campus, there are myriad clubs to join. The Chinese Student and Scholars Association, Taiwanese Student Association (TSA) and the Korean Student Association are organizations that Asian American college students can engage in. Phebe Yun, graduate student majoring in Education, who is the President of TSA, invites international students to intermix with first generation Asian Americans. Bringing culture from their home country with them, international students from Asia understandably experience the clashing of cultures and must strive to surpass the English language barrier. If one cannot comprehend the reasons why conflicts cause such strife, one struggles to voice an opinion. Yun said that she personally would stand for equality in the U.S. As an important officer of her organization, however, Yun explained that she hesitates to make a statement on the association’s behalf, because

every member has “their personal preferences and may not agree with [her] personally.” Both Asian American and international students face challenges in methods of expression; one can be mistaken for the other, yet, the two groups come from different pasts. Regardless, they are all grouped into the “Model Minority” category. The burden of being Asian American on campus lies in a paradox: trying to be American in the Western hemisphere while also embracing the heritage and richness of a country in the Eastern hemisphere. This means that Asian American students struggle to combine multiple identities and to discover which causes they believe in.

The Next Step

Asian Americans have a duty to state and fight for what they believe is right, yet they must also listen to the struggles of others. As an Asian American — specifically, a Chinese American — I acknowledge what I have yet to do. While I do my best to employ internet activism on my social media platforms, doing so can only reach a limited number of people. Certainly, sharing a few videos and articles highlights subtle problems the populace may be perpetuating, but I cannot use the excuse that it is better than doing nothing to refuse to challenge the wrongdoings in society and to clarify my peers’ misconceptions. Realizing how I have so much privilege in comparison to many of my other Asian counterparts is the first step to becoming a dedicated feminist, a genuine activist and a voice on my college campus. With that realization, I would use my privilege to advocate for those lesser-privileged of all minorities. The opportunities I have received throughout the course of my life, from the expensive piano lessons to attending a suburban school district, are not to be written off as insignificant. By being accepted into the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Honors College, I do not have the financial burden of tuition on my shoulders either. Therefore, the next step is to educate others in the most direct way possible: in person, face to face. Volunteering in voter registration drives, marching in protests and taking visible action to effect social change are viable options for me, and for other Asian Americans on campus, to consider. Among cultural differences, familial and societal expectations and discovery of self-identity, the quintessential Asian American college student can focus on two essential objectives: develop first the ability to vocalize one’s own opinions, experiences and existence on the college campus and then use one’s newly discovered voice to become a champion of rights of any kind. It should not take such a tragic event as the murder of Vincent Chin to ignite such outrage and garner support for change; the involvement of Asian Americans in activism as a whole should be increased and encouraged. •


On black girls that are not magic, myth or mystery, but humans existing in spite of. // Sage Mack

Contributions By// Arbela Capas & Elisabeth Weems

A Spell for the Ache your Mother Knows 1 tree trunk 3 Flower crowns, 15 bantu knots, 2 pair bamboo earrings, 1 Handful of soil from your grandmothers garden candied yams, glitter, gold and silver items 1 afro pick Your fathers tongue (He speaks to much, and not enough, to keep it) The pills you thought would work The lover that did Pour contents into pot Stir till blended Strain twice On full moon feed to your soul In 10 years feed to your daughters


dolescence is a time to be carefree, curious and free forming. A time when playing outside is your job and watching cartoons is your homework. But like so many other black girls globally my youth looked different. My youth looked like “inappropriate” hair being forced into western standards, permission to speak when the world wants you silent, nightly prayers to look like the pretty white girls at school, “Maybe one day I’ll wake up lighter,” I would dream. It looked like my aunt’s empty skin bleaching jars. Like being taught that I was too loud so everyone needed my silence. It looked like waiting and waiting and waiting for remedies to a pain that I can’t describe. There is no healing for a black girl’s grief it seems. As a young black girl raised in America’s deep south it became clear to me that my natural self was to be white washed and suppressed, that my being was inappropriate and needed to be remedied with relaxers, mouth guards and an institutional western education. Fear became my best friend and doubt my companion; black and ugly became relative. Growing up, my mother’s willful, fearless nature showed as she stopped at nothing to provide for her daughters. She made it her duty to constantly remind my sisters and I that our standing, natural hair grew towards the sky because we were so heavenly and our skin was the color of chocolate and caramel because we were so sweet. Messages like these become vital for the self esteem of a young black girl. Messages of upliftment and validation to reassure her being while doting on her natural-born awesomeness. Though these messages could be scarce in not only the media but also her upbringing; songs like India Arie’s Brown Skin and Corinne Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On sonically remind us of our beauty with lyrics like “You know I love your brown skin” and “Got to love that afro hairdo.” Songs like these I loved growing up. Spinning Gold from Straw The phrase Black Girl Magic was created in 2013 by CaShawn Thompson. First printed on


a t-shirt, it has since roared into a movement. Though we can give her credit for the term, that has since become a trademark by the Black Girls Rock franchise. Black Girl Magic has existed long before there were words for it. It is not only loving yourself in a world where being naturally you is an act of resistance, but also sharing love and light to empower other black girls towards self love, greatness and achievement. Being fearless is one of the main components of Black Girl Magic. Many of us black girls have had that courage-provoking moment when we’re young and getting ready for school in the morning. Staring in the mirror riddled with anxiety about what our peers are going to think of our natural hair. It is one of the first times we’re wearing our natural hair in public, “What will people say? Will they laugh at me?” The endless doubt-filled questions will be stopped by a declaration of love. We proceed to enter the world authentically as ourselves, despite the comments of how nappy it is or the curious white hands exploring our mane. Having the courage to wear your natural hair is prevalent for black girls globally but not without backlash. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a high school teen in the Bahamas was suspended for her natural hair. Administrators deemed it “untidy” for school. According to the Huffington Post, Vanessa VanDyke, a 12-year-old black girl in central Florida, was threatened to restyle her natural ‘fro or else she would be suspended. While a Toronto eighth-grade girl was sent to the principal’s office because her natural ‘fro was “too puffy” and “unprofessional.” With reprimands like these put on our young black girls there comes courage and a fight against such oppressions, in other words “Black Girl Magic.” Like the group of South African girls that protested against their high school to wear their natural hair. Timeless stories like these have shown in U.S history when black and multiracial women in 19th century Louisiana had a law enforced on them that made them cover their hair in public with cloth. Not because their hair was to ugly but because it was to beautiful. In the law it stated that they were putting an end to women having overly ostentatious hairstyles that drew the jealousy of white women and attention of white men. But their Tigon (meaning headdress) laws quickly backfired when women started using beautiful fabrics and designs even incorporating jewels and feathers into their headwraps. Glory To the Goddesses Black women have been making lemonade out of lemons since the beginning of time, and speaking of — Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album titled “Lemonade” is a bold declaration of black womanhood and Black Girl Magic. Its captivating visuals of elegant victorian style dresses, a gorgeous plantation style house with spanish-moss-riddled trees, and the

plethora of noted black youth and women has brought it to the Black Girl Magic hall of fame. Her song Formation metaphorically notes the message to black women that, despite the endless bullshit we may be faced with, “focus on your success as it is,” is the best revenge for the haters — the systems and everyday people that hold us back. 2016 has been a great year full of Black Girl Magic. Sister of Beyoncé, Solange Knowles also released a stunning album that featured songs like Don’t Touch My Hair, highlighting the natural hair issue among black women when curious, often patronizing white hands find their way into our hair. When one looks up #BlackGirlMagic on social media, they find themselves in a world full of happiness and celebration. Black women posting their natural hair, melanin and achievements. Other movements like the “Natural Hair Movement” and “Black Girls Rock” provide safe spaces for black women to celebrate eachothers’ beauty and themselves. #BlackGirlMagic isn’t just a hashtag on social media but a safe space for black women and girls worldwide to celebrate and love themselves openly. It is not very often a black girl in Germany can tell another black girl in the US that she loves the way her hair looks after that twist out, but through media outlets like Youtube and Instagram where the Natural Hair Movement and Black Girl Magic have a huge platform it became an international community of self-love and preservation. Often times on T.V we see images of the angry bitter black woman stereotype or in other words the Sapphire stereotype. She is the bitter black woman that yells and can’t take a joke or laugh. She is to burdened with hardship to be happy and has an emasculating personality. Other common stereotypes in media for black women are the Mammy, a servant type black mother figure in white homes, or the Jezebel a promiscuous female that can be seen as unlovable, self-destructive and angry — “The Bad Girl.” Stereotypes like these in the media polluting the minds of black girl youth sends a harmful message, it doesn’t give them the opportunity to dream past the boxes they reside but conform to an inevitable stereotype. But #BlackGirlMagic saves the day with its positive and inspiring messages. Within this hashtag and similar hashtags there became a push back towards these negative portrayals in the media. This platform gives the everyday black woman a voice that she has long deserved. It gives her and other black women the chance to say their grievances about the trials they face and take steps towards a positive change of the systems. #BlackGirlMagic sparks conversation and through conversation do we as humans see error in the institutions and see our fellow human beings as equal and deserving of life, happiness and freedom. #BlackGirlMagic does not just uplift black women and girls, it sparks conversation and change so that we all as human beings evolve together. •


Aseelah Shareef The director of programs at the historic Karamu House theatre in Cleveland, Aseelah Shareef is in charge of arts education programming, which supports the theatre, as well as community events that celebrate African American culture. She also serves in public relations and marketing. We asked her, as an organizer in the African American community, what #BlackGirlMagic means to her. Shareef says, “I think in it’s simplest, to me, it’s black women who are living unapologetically, who are being really authentic in their being and their presence, and being courageous as well,” she explains. Shareef says that these traits are good for anyone to have, however more often than not, black women need to utilize them more. Shareef talks about the importance of black women celebrating themselves, without people thinking they are being “vain” or “self-absorbed.” She adds that the significance is very real, especially when inspiring younger women and girls. Black Girl Magic scared many people in way that they don’t understand Shareef points out. It scared them because of the power and self love that black women were boldly showing through these communal celebrations on social media. This fear caused a backlash, in the forms of pseudo movements like “White Girl Magic” and #whiteout, the reverse of blackout were intentional stunts to downplay the significance and resistance to western standards that black women and people were celebrating. A resistance like that makes people question their privilege and even their own beauty. It takes them out of the box that they were told to be in and actually look at images of people that a beautiful without having to look like what society has told them what beautiful is. “There are still many black and brown little girls who need a reminder that they’re good, they’re solid and they have all the gifts that they need,” Shareef says. “We have to remind our women to straighten their crown.” Shareef reminds us of the social responsibility to take care of our black girl youth. To whatever chance we get show them love and kindness, to give them messages that tell them how beautiful and intelligent they are, despite what other people may tell them.


Chanda Bynum Major: English along with a minor in Communications Age: 21 Hometown: Cleveland “What Black Girl Magic is to me is telling black women to be unashamed physically and mentally about what we deem is important to us, about our culture and who we are as black women; like our hair and our body shape, what music we listen to and what we eat and what being black means, and to not be planted into these stereotypes about being a angry black woman, or being oversexualized” “A lot of people assume that we can take a lot of stuff on the brow, but we are emotional people and we do have feelings. It doesn’t mean it’s not affecting us. Sometimes being a black woman, people think you can take a lot more. We shouldn’t always have to be so strong, and be allowed to be encompassed by our feelings.” A lot of black women are not processing their hair anymore and are embracing their natural hair. “Embracing our features” What is the power of having this movement? “The movement overall is saying be who you want to be, whatever that means to you. Be what it means to be a black woman to you.”


Jasmine Conkle Major: Film, TV, and Interactive Media Age: 24 Hometown: Cleveland “For me, Black Girl Magic is just making sure that I feel like I’m just doing the best that I can as an individual, trying to be a good person and just being kind and generous to people. It’s not trying to do something overwhelming and big to try and get everybody’s attention, it’s just making sure that at the end of the day, I’m happy with the things that I do and [that] I make my own self proud.” “Part of it is just knowing that you’re being recognized, especially if you don’t think that you’ve been seen, especially by the media or by your peers who probably think less of you or just don’t even know the things that you can do or the kind of person you can be.

Anne H. Berry Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Hometown: Indiana “As a graphic design person, the idea of how people are represented is a huge part of what we do.” Berry talks about doing research back in college on black caricatures and how there’s a long history of African Americans being portrayed in very negative ways. She explains the rationale behind this: these caricatures were both a business tool but also perpetuated very harmful stereotypes. Especially with black lives matter and police brutality, a lot of these stereotypes are rooted in those caricatures, Berry says. “So, when thinking about this particular movement, for women, I think that it does hold as value because it is often such a difficult road in terms of combating these negative perceptions that people have. And because it’s been imbedded in our society for hundreds and hundreds of years. Imagine living in the midst of that and your whole existence you’re trying to work against that.” Berry says it’s important to highlight accomplishments and praise for black women. “I would also add that one of the stereotypes of us is this myth of the strong black woman, which becomes very prevalent and problematic. So it’s this attitude that black women are super strong and have no vulnerabilities, and that tends to take away our humanity.” Berry highlights it’s important not to put a box around each individual experience, and it’s important not to categorize black women in any way, because everyone has vulnerability and emotions they need to deal with.

Sage Mack


Major: English Age: 18 Hometown: Cleveland

Major: Communications along with

Author of this piece, with some black girl magic of her own. “Black girl magic is a power that nobody has given me and nobody can take from me, it’s in my essence, my soul, it’s a resilience and upliftment I hold, that my mother holds that my sisters and grandmother hold. This power and light is held by all the black women who have ever come before me and they have given it to me through love and struggle. “ “Most of all, Black Girl Magic is a job to never stop creating, to be my best self and to never let another black woman or girl lose sight of the beautiful crown she was born with.”

a minor in dance Age: 19 Hometown: Cleveland “Black Girl Magic is important because anything is possible, no matter what color you are, no matter what race you are, no matter what ethnicity you are. Anything is inevitable as a woman.”

Ogechi Onyeukwu Major: Pre-Med Age: 21 Hometown: Nigeria “This movement is huge. It’s so important to have a movement like this that uplifts us and tells us we are beautiful. That lets us know we are intelligent and we can be great people. This is the perfect time, especially for our young people. This movement will allow people to be motivated in order to reach whatever it is that they want to do.” “Black Girl Magic is important because anything is possible, no matter what color you are, no matter what race you are, no matter what ethnicity you are.”

Disclaimer: This article is not reserved for just cisgendered black women. It is for ALL that identify as woman, girl, or feminine. For all trans, genderfluid, non-binary, or questioning black sisters, you are not invisible. We see you, and we love you. Your existence is valid, beautiful, and important. Don’t let your crown fall, Queen.

The Black Girl Magic Commandments Thou Shall Love Thy Melanin, in all the shades that it may be. Thou Shall Embrace thy kinky, curly, nappy, wavy hair. Thou Shall sit with thy legs open, slouch, laugh, frown, get angry, yell and be carefree in her existence. Thou Shall not give a single fuck. Thou shall always Love herself and her fellow black women, for all that she and they are.


Thou Shall Create, Create, and Create art, love and the change you wish to see, endlessly.




Mobilizing a Movement

How Kevinee Gilmore turned her experience into a life of advocating. // Holly Bland



feel like I was cheated out of my childhood. I didn’t get to go to homecoming, cheerleading, anything like that. I wanted a normal life.” Childhood Obstacles It took Kevinee Gilmore until her senior year of high school to pass her eighth grade math proficiency test. Five years of her childhood were spent lost in the system, in and out of shelters and homes, sometimes with nowhere to go. This is a reality more than 23,700 children in Ohio face each year, a reality Gilmore knows all too well and wishes to change for kids across the U.S. Gilmore is a 32-year-old Cleveland State University alumnae who aged out of foster care with a mission to make being a foster youth less shameful. Her experience in the system herself fuels her ambition to rise above obstacles and dedicate her time to helping those facing similar circumstances, no matter what tries to stop her. She is the founder of #FosterCare, a growing movement committed to getting people to talk about foster care, aiming to bring awareness and empowerment to foster youth. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio she describes her years prior to foster care as if she were in “People Under the Stairs,” the 1991 American horror film by Wes Craven. Her mother often made her pose as if she had a mental illness so they could qualify for Social Security Disability, admitting her to mental health hospitals under the claims that she was hearing voices and was suicidal — but none of the claims were true. She also experienced physical abuse. “My step-father was military,” she explains, “I’d be standing in the corner for hours with weights, locked in my room from the inside, I had to knock for food and water or even to go to the restroom.” She became a runaway, eventually landing herself in a detention center. From ages 13-18, she was in and out of 13 different placements — including homes and shelters — and five different high schools in the Cleveland area. Gilmore says she experienced a lot of mental and physical abuse, and had a hard time keeping friends. Switching schools so much really took a toll on her

overall knowledge in high school. “I went to John Haye, Shaker, Shaw, I finally graduated from Maple,” she says. “They’re all different systems educationally, though.” “On my 18th birthday my foster parents took me to court and told me I was emancipated.” They wanted rent for her to stay with them, since they wouldn’t be receiving money from the state for her anymore. Since she was just working at the airport at the time, trying to include paying her foster parents monthly rent didn’t seem like a viable option. Instead, her social

Contact Kevinee and #FosterCare Online: Email: Instagram: @hashtagfostercare Twitter: @FosterShareKevi

worker recommended college so she would have a place to stay. She went right to college after high school, not waiting until Fall but enrolling in Summer courses at Cleveland State University. “I could live in the dorms and this seemed like the only option at the time. But the social worker dropped me off at college, and it really just felt like another placement,” she states. They didn’t talk about the financial aid aspect of what she was getting herself into, they just did what was necessary to get her into school. Facing New Challenges Gilmore overall did really well at Cleveland State, enjoying sociology and social work. She did begin to feel depressed, when the Fall semester began with mothers dropping off their kids to the dorms. “I think depression really hit me when the full school year started, seeing all of these mothers kissing their kids goodbye and like all of those feelings from childhood resurfaced,” she admits, “I was so jealous of those kids, they had their parents.”

She spent a lot of time comparing and contrasting others’ situations to her own. She said college was lonely for her, thankfully her transgender roommate really looked out for her. At one point Gilmore was sleeping in her car during semester breaks because students couldn’t be in dorms. Fearing how much money she owed, but having no place else to go, she eventually left the dorms. She was enrolled in college from 2002 to 2009, taking her seven years to graduate from CSU with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, taking breaks in-between to complete prerequisites at Cuyahoga Community College. “It was seven years of turmoil but I had the desire to know more,” she says. Among other Cleveland State Social Work faculty, Dr. Andrew Edwards was good to her, while challenging her at the same time. He put everything in perspective, all of the patterns she felt she was experiencing. He even offered her an internship. “I finally had that ah-ha moment in Edwards class,” she says. “It was that moment that brought social work and child welfare to surface for me. Like paradigm thinking, and all of my feelings got put together.” Edwards offered her a paid internship at a daycare that would also qualify as a credit for school. She was focusing on community development, coordinating with the Cleveland Foundation on Project Access and learned various skills, including grant writing. “I wanted to be better than any social worker I ever met,” she explains. “That’s why I got my ungrad in social work.” One social worker Gilmore did admire was Seanine Cook. Although Cook was not directly put onto her case, she became her social worker after taking over her file. She often put Cook subconsciously in the box of her mother. “She was that person for me,” she says. Cook has filled multiple roles in Gilmore’s life, from social worker, to mentor, to mother figure, and at this point, close friend. Prior to graduation, she spent time at Senator John Kerry’s office through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption NOVEMBER 2016 | VINDICATOR 32


Building Blocks As someone who has experienced all of the hardships that come along with being a foster youth, she knows how hard it can be to to have the capacity to get through college, let alone the statistics of less than 3 percent of foster youth graduate college by age 25. In January of 2010, Gilmore asked Dr. Ronald Berkman, president of Cleveland State, at a City Club of Cleveland meeting if he would be open to creating a partnership with the Department of Children and Family Services to support foster youth trying to make their way through college by making graduation accessible and possible. Berkman was enthusiastic, applauding her on how she is a wonderful testament to the power of CSU, and agreed to speaking about things further. A few years following her courageous ask, the Sullivan-Deckard Scholars Program was established. The program was born of a combined gift to Cleveland State University, from Frank and Barbara Sullivan and Jennifer and Daryl Deckard. Together they contributed $2.3 million dollars to the university, providing opportunity to foster youth coming out of high school and foster care to pursue an education at Cleveland State. The goal of the program is ultimately to provide a smooth transition to higher education and give foster kids the support they need to succeed. This program provides recipients with yearround housing; funding for tuition, books and other fees; on-campus employment; peer mentorship; tutoring and success coaches; and a Summer Transition to College Workshop (STCW.) The program is administered by the CSU Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement 33 VINDICATOR | NOVEMBER 2016

– overseen by Dr. Charleyse S. Pratt. Discovering that a program was finally dedicated to promote success among the community of incoming foster kids, Gilmore was ecstatic, but also felt a little shut out. She really wanted to be a part of that program, especially in the aspect of being hands-on with these recipients in terms of mentorship. “It would be like a big brother/big sister thing, you know — empowering them,” she says, while describing the relationship she wishes to have with them. “Cham-

I wanted to be better than any social worker I ever met.

Institute (CCAI) in 2007. This program brought her and other foster youth to Capitol Hill, where they would lobby senate to sign off on various child welfare bills. Gilmore also worked closely with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, and Hillary Clinton. Also serving as the Cleveland liaison for Black Entertainment Television (BET) Foundation, recruiting over 250 girls for an empowerment summit at John Carroll University.

pions know to get champions to carry out the work, why wouldn’t you want a resilient foster youth to help other foster youth?” Instead, Gilmore wasn’t put into the scope with the program, and every attempt to reach out to volunteer and offer a helping hand was quickly denied or ignored. “Pratt wouldn’t allow me to help,” she says. It hurt her that a program at her own alma mater dedicated to helping students in situations exactly like hers wouldn’t comply with her willingness to mentor and be a part of it. Gilmore says that her and Barbara Sullivan have spoke multiple times, and Sullivan admittingly told her that it was her story that compelled them to give the money to Cleveland State for the program. “It honestly reminded me of not being adopted and all of those abandonment issues and working so hard for people to be like ‘Nevermind, you’re not

good enough.’ I want to work and know who these kids are. This is something I’m serious about,” she says. In another attempt to help newly aged-out foster youth to avoid specific barriers while trying to pursue bettering their lives, she purchased a two-family home to be a Foster Share House. Prospective tenants included students attending Cleveland State University and an individual that was working while expecting a child. She was able to work with other members of the community to connect these folks by providing them with services like optometry, different variations of job shadowing, and other services. The goal for the house is an in-between space to help them access the services they need and give them a place to crash for the holidays. Among renovating the prospected share house, despite a few minor setbacks with previous contractors, Gilmore persevered and continued to move forward. When most of the renovations were finally complete with little left to do but add drywall, she received a gut-wrenching phone call that the front door was propped wide open. Only to find that nearly everything she invested into this share house was ripped out and stolen. Hot water tanks, furnaces, toilets, and other renovations and tools completely gone. She is now back at square one, with no more money to invest in the project. Another attempt to help aging out foster youth was shot down, leaving Gilmore searching for another direct and hands-on way to advocate for them. Aside from various bumps in the road on the way to helping foster youth, something that really inspired her was the opportunity to introduce Hillary Clinton at Case Western Reserve University at her first rally after she had just announced her presidential campaign. “The opportunity was amazing, an aged out foster youth was able to introduce our future President,” she reflects. Clinton was so supportive and enthusiastic towards her, telling her to talk about herself, and what she’s gone through. She told Gilmore that she is a champion, and that everyone needs to know that she’s a champion.

Carrying Out the Work Gilmore soon after found herself at Charity Day in New York on September 11, 2015. An annual event that Cantor FItzgerald and BGC Partners in conjunction with the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, it commemorates employees who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 by distributing 100 percent of its global revenues on Charity Day to the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund and dozens of other charities around the world. This event includes distinguished guests like actors to help raise these funds. Seeing the way celebrities were brought together to raise money for various causes, this brought Gilmore to use the hashtag “#FosterCare” on social media to bring awareness to foster youth. “At first, my hashtag was me just being sarcastic. But I knew people would begin to care if I got that to trend, though. My main thought was ‘how do I get everyone ‘all in’?’” If millennials started to care about this agenda of fixing foster care, it can happen. “We need to make it funky, cool, fly — and make it trend,” she says. “Celebrities caring about foster youth makes them feel less ashamed,” she adds. This created the idea that having celebrities hold a sign with “#FosterCare” could mobilize the campaign, past just the hashtag used on social media. This turned into the perfect anecdote to snagging millennials to the cause; trends and celebrities. “Some of the most powerful people have been in foster care, and I just want foster kids to feel good. I just want the energy to change the stigma of what foster youth looks like and doing so in such a way that speaks life into them.”

#FosterCare has been in effect for just a little over a year since she started in fall 2015. It has already attracted a following of over 6,000 on her Instagram, which is the main form of outreach for the campaign. She says some folks that have been attracted to #FosterCare, and are featured on the @hashtagfostercare Instagram are Stevie Wonder, Hill Harper, DMC, Angela Davis, Teyana Taylor, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Leslie Jones and many more. As previously mentioned, the robbing of her Foster Share House was devastating. For November, Kevinee is initiating an “Adopt My Home” campaign to try and get things up and running. Her attempts to fundraise to replace everything that was stolen fell short, so the premise of the campaign is to engage the Cleveland community to come out and contribute in any way they can to rebuild her Foster Share House. This includes donating funds, services, tools, supplies, and utilities like the ones previously stolen. Aside from #FosterCare and still trying to get her Foster Share House going, she diligently goes to high schools and talks to faculty to help identify their foster youth population, something she is hoping will turn into a state wide objective. Gilmore likes to think of herself as a “freelance” social worker. Continuously beating odds, she uses her story as her main driver, advocating for foster youth in a majority of her affairs. “Your presence needs to be known through services,” she says. “I know how to pimp my hustle, that’s what I want to teach foster youth.” •

e r a C r e t s o F #

FOSTER YOUTH STATISTICS - More than one in five will become homeless after age 18. - Only 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87 percent of all 19 year olds.) - 71 percent of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system. - At the age of 24, only half are employed. - Fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28 percent of all 25 year olds) One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system. - In 2013, 60% of the child sex trafficking victims recovered as part of FBI nationwide raid from over 70 cities were children from foster care or group homes. - 1 in 4 will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). - In the U.S. alone 402,378 children are living in the foster care system. 101,840 of those 402,378 children are up for adoption. - These stars were once in the foster care system: Simone Biles, “DMC” McDaniels, Steve Jobs, Malcom X, Willie Nelson, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Ice T, Eddie Murphy, Cher. *according to the 2010 US census




The “who, what where, when, and how” of the CSU music therapy program. // Caitlin Cole


hen I came to Cleveland State University three years ago, I was overwhelmed. I grew up on a small farm without any neighbors my own age and suddenly I was surrounded by people and a lack of greenery. I chose to experience this so I could pursue my passion, music therapy. The more I learned about music therapy, the more I fell in love with it and what it could do. I was able to witness the positive effects that it had on so many different individuals who were in need. There is no greater feeling than being able to use one of your passions, music in my situation, to help another person. The music therapy program here became a place where I grew so much as a person and learned things about myself that I would have missed otherwise. The faculty and my peers became a support system that helped me through tough challenges, which I never imagined I would go through. Our professors are very adamant on self-care and how important it is to make sure our minds and bodies are healthy. I began to realize that I put others before myself in an unhealthy way and that there was more I needed to experience before I could settle in one place. There was more I needed to do for myself. It was hard to understand and accept but it dawned on me that right now is not my time to be in music therapy. I was nervous about telling my professors. I knew they wouldn’t be angry or upset but I admire them and I was aspiring to be as successful as they are one day. As I explained why I decided to switch, I realized that I had no reason to be nervous. All they wanted was for me to be in the healthiest and happiest place I could be. One of my professors used flower pots as an analogy (she’s so good at those) and said that it didn’t matter if I was in the same flower pot or the one right next


to them. All that mattered was that I was still being watered, getting enough sun and that I was happy. Without this wonderful program, full of exceptional people, I would have never been able to survive all that I’ve experienced these past three years. Some have asked me if I felt as though I wasted those three years, since I switched majors and I’ll be in school longer. Those three years were the hardest I’ve experienced so far but not a single moment in the music therapy program was a waste. It is my hope that music therapy is strongly advocated for because I have not only been helped personally but I’ve watched countless others experience it as well. So, here is the who, what, where, when, why and how of music therapy and what the program means to Cleveland State. What is music therapy? According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), “Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish goals within a therapeutic relationship by credentialed professional who have completed an approved music therapy program.” A simpler and more direct definition for music therapy is the use of music to achieve nonmusical goals. Who can music therapy help? Music therapy is used to help countless individuals, with different needs and it can be tailored to fit each individual’s abilities. Examples of different clients would be an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who needs help with any sensory-motor, perceptual/motor,

or gross/fine motor skills or an individual with Alzheimer’s disease who needs help with physical, psychological, cognitive or social functioning. The individual does not need any past music experience for music therapy to benefit them. When did music therapy begin? The idea of music as a tool to improve an individual’s health is actually not a new concept. The use of music for healing was actually presented in documents by Aristotle and Plato and the earliest mention of music therapy itself was in 1789, in Columbia Magazine. A more recent example of music therapy, which is a bit more of a documented start, is after World War I and II, when an assortment of musicians aided soldiers with emotional and physical wounds from battle. Doctors and nurses saw the positive effect that music had and began requesting musicians within hospitals. Where can music therapists work? Hospice centers, schools, juvenile detention centers, psychiatric facilities and nursing homes are just a few examples of where a music therapist can practice. Why is music so beneficial in the healing process? Music therapy research has greatly expanded our knowledge of how music affects the brain and how music can be utilized to help individuals heal. Now, music therapy is an evidence-based practice and there are even magazines and journals dedicated to publishing the research being done. Journal of Music Thera-

py, Music Therapy Perspectives and imagine are just a few examples of sources that document new research or developments in the field. Music therapy has been proven to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, enhance memory, improve communication and even promote physical rehabilitation.


How can you become a music therapist? Music therapy is a lot more complex than just playing guitar for a client’s enjoyment. It takes a lot of training and education to understand how to properly use music as a therapeutic tool and a lot goes into successfully going through an AMTA certified program. A student needs to not only take classes to be a proficient musician, in many different instruments, but also go through psychology and health/science courses. Students go through practicum classes and are placed at different sites, where they conduct their own sessions and work with different types of clients. Each site has a practicing music therapist as a supervisor, to give students constructive criticism about the sessions. Students need to have a certain amount of these clinical hours before graduation. After finishing the work in the classroom, students are required to complete a six month internship. After finishing internship, an individual must become board certified by passing an exam before they can practice music therapy. Music therapy at Cleveland State Here at Cleveland State, the music therapy program is one of the most successful and quickly growing music programs. It became an independent program when it broke away from a

consortium that was based at Baldwin Wallace University. Since music therapy became its own program, a lot has changed within the music department and more opportunities have opened for music therapy students. One of the biggest changes is Cleveland State Student Music Therapists (CSSMT), a student-led organization that is a huge aid for music therapy students, which began in 2012. President of CSSMT, Cassandra Acree said that the organization was there to give the program’s students the “community of support” that would help them become successful in the field of music therapy. The group started with no more than 10 members and it is currently at almost 50 members (the overall program has 70 to 80 students). Members enrich the community and college campus by being involved with many different service opportunities. Past volunteer work has involved going to Ronald McDonald House, Christmas caroling at local nursing homes and participating in some of the fundraisers that Cleveland State’s sororities have held. “Members are involved with causes that are simply bigger than themselves, bringing maturity, engaged learning, and prolonged dedication to CSU’s campus,” said Acree. She said the biggest goal for the group right now is to send members to the National Music Therapy Conference in Sandusky, Ohio this semester. The group does offer a lot to music therapy students but there are also opportunities for other majors to get involved with the group. Another important goal of the group is to advocate for music therapy and different events are held to bring other people in. Each spring there is a banquet held that is open to the public and has a music therapist as a keynote speaker. Drum circles are also held for any CSU student to join and are a great way for students to connect with others outside of their major. “I chose music therapy simply because I wanted to help people with the gift of music I have been given. With countless encounters with clients I’ve worked with through shadowing and clinical experiences, I continue to find peace and passion in choosing the field of music therapy”, said Acree. “The program is a trailblazer with fantastic resources and professionals helping to create it to be such a strong and educational program,” said Natalie Eberhardt. She is the former president of CSSMT for the two years before Acree and during her time as president was able to increase the membership rate by over 50%. She is finished with coursework and is preparing to start her internship in January. She has strong faith in the faculty’s support. “Layman and O were fantastic professors over the my 4 years, and I know they’ll be there to help me through any parts of my internship I might need help with. There isn’t a single part of me that wishes I would’ve gone somewhere else.” Deborah Layman, Coordinator of Music Therapy at CSU, has been with the

program for five years and has practiced as a Music Therapist for 20 years. Layman has been a crucial factor in all of the changes made for the program, along with Carol Olszewski, Assistant professor of music therapy. Currently there are plans being made to start a Master’s program for music therapy at Cleveland State. Layman said the earliest this would be implemented would be in 2018 as it is in “very beginning stages”. Laymen said this new program would open up research opportunities at CSU in music therapy and it would enrich the community for the music therapy students already in the program. The program would give students an opportunity to be surrounded by more certified music therapists and it would open up specialization tracks of study. Laymen is also a part of The Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) and has been for 11 years. CBMT is in charge of the board exam that certifies music therapists to practice in the field and it her involvement benefits her students. Layman said it helped her see the “bigger picture” and how certification and the practice is changing. This gives her and Olszewski the opportunity to properly prepare students for working in the growing field of music therapy. Music therapy is important to Cleveland State but also to Cleveland, Ohio as a whole. It is offered at University Hospitals, The Music Settlement, Hospice of the Western Reserve, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and countless other places. With music therapy, the options are endless. •

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON MUSIC THERAPY: American Music Therapy Association University Hospitals Certification Board for Music Therapists

HERE AT CSU: Deborah Layman Kate Bill




Our culture influences our efforts for change // Joe Schmittgen

an you believe it? Seriously, can you believe it? We’ve made it this far. We’ve made it further than one could even fathom. In 1916, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write to you what you’re reading right now. In 1916, we wouldn’t even be studying at this university — it didn’t even exist. Fenn College wasn’t established until 1923, and wouldn’t become Cleveland State University until 1964. As a Shaker Heights native, I’ve built this impression that Cleveland State was a commuter school. Today if you don’t submit a housing application by the first day of the semester, you won’t have a hope in getting into a dorm room the following academic year. As Cleveland continues to develop more and more, we sometimes forget the way things used to be. Think of the run down, abandoned warehouses and factories in Cleveland. Some of you may see them on your early morning drive into campus. At our age, in that time, some of us would have been working in those factories. Those factories would have likely been your workplace for the next 30-40 years, until your retirement essentially. Some of us would have died in the sunken U.S. ships crossing the Atlantic by German submarines. Guys, many of us would be getting ready to go overseas to fight in the First World War. Girls, many of you would be planning on settling down and starting families. Some of you would have been recently married and preparing to say goodbye to your brand new spouse with no certainty that you would ever see him again. Things are not how they used to be. Women wouldn’t gain the right to vote until 1920. Now women aren’t only able to vote, but they are also running for Presidency, two are, in fact. Jim Crow laws were alive and well in 1916, and now we have an African American president who’s about to


finish his second term in office. The movements back then made it so that we could live the lives we live today. We are a diverse, multicultural student body and we did not simply just become this in a matter of days. I do undoubtedly recognize that the land we live in is not perfect, but once in awhile we do need to recognize the progresses we’ve made. Progress does not happen overnight. Some of you are from states like New York, Illinois, California, or even a completely different country. Reflect on the conversations you have with your family and friends from home. In your mind, imagine yourself 100 years ago. Think of the days, weeks and months you’d wait to hear from your family and friends. When that piece of paper finally came, filled with overflowing joy, you’d tear through that envelope, to see what your loved ones had written you. Today, we receive those messages within seconds. We’ve become a short-term culture. Ever since the inventions of the microwave, telephones or even fast food, we, as Americans, have developed a culture of things getting done fast. We’ve been subject to this enculturation process . This way of life was not established by our generation but passed down by the generations before us. We are a short term culture We are a culture that values living in the moment. We love to “live it up.” This is reflected never better than in the saying, “Live every day like it’s your last.” This is a very beautiful thing, but what happens when we start thinking of our future? What if we had a saying like, “Live every day so that 10 years from now, life is not stressful, horrid and all things awful.” Do you have goals? Do you really know what you want to be? The majority of college students will change majors at least 3 times before graduation. Perhaps if we gave more thought to this earlier, maybe we

wouldn’t change majors as often. According to the, Bureau Labor of Statistics, the typical U.S. worker will change jobs every 4.6 years. We depend on getting things done at a fairly expedient rate. This way of thinking is being tested now, more than ever. In this upcoming election many issues are now being brought to the table, and we’re going to have to think about what country we want to live in. Not just now, but further down the line. We’re going to have to be cognizant of the fact of that the change and the improvements we want to see are going to take time to happen. What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Now! Even if we make big steps forward in the next four to eight years, how do we preserve this change? What are we going to have to do in the next four to eight years afterwards? As we’ve seen beforehand, what happens today won’t only have a great effect on us now, but will have an all awesome touch in what this nation, this land, will look like down the line. Things that happened 100 years ago have an effect on the way we live today. Think about all of the positive things that surround our lives. Some Americans 100 years ago, somewhere, did whatever they did, in whatever movement or organization that they were a part of, so that we can benefit from the fruits of their hard labor. So what do we want our U.S. to look like in 100 years? What do we need to do in order to fulfill this dream? Considering what is happening today, where are we headed in 100 years? I went about campus and conversed with a few students on these questions. I wanted to see how students in this shortterm culture react when having to think in a long term state of mind. When I first went about bringing up this topic with students, I had initially asked

What does your ideal U.S. look like? Psychology/sociology student Nicole Cropp dreams of a peaceful U.S, where we won’t have a need for groups like Black Lives Matter. We would have already accomplished the goals set out by such social groups. As I was interviewing her, I realized that she had responded quite well to both questions.

“We actually talked about this in my class.” Cropp said. Maybe us students think about these things normally. Perhaps the university is helping by opening our minds to this way of thinking through similar topics. But like many scientists do, I adjusted my evaluation process. I added one more question to discuss in order to truly access the thinking of us students. What are the steps needed to be taken in order for this ideal utopia to manifest in itself ? In my interview with communications student Savannah Lewis, the initial way in which she responded seemed quite timid. Unlike Cropp, Lewis needed a few moments to gather her thoughts. She expressed a few things that need to happen in the next four to eight years in order for the U.S. to be a better place in 100 years. “A cut down on police brutality could happen with more training and a better evaluation process, and background checks,” she asserted. She urged that we must invest more in the efforts to use renewable energy resources, not only to combat climate change but to also preserve the resources we do have. From these discussions, I came away with a few conclusions. We students, can absolutely think into great depth as to what they imagine their ideal future America to be. Even though our short term culture may have an influence on our thinking process, if we take the time to really concentrate, we can develop detailed steps in order to achieve this utopia. While writing this, I’ve taken away something from this whole experience. There are many issues in our nation. For these issues to be resolved, it is obvious that change needs to happen, but throughout this experience my perception of what change is has devel-

oped more and more. Change is like a child that grows up and matures over time. A child needs to learn to crawl before it can walk, and needs to learn to walk before it can run. A five-year-old needs to go to kindergarten, before it can go to college. In order to become a chef, the chef needs to be a busboy, then a line cook, then a sous chef first. There are steps that need to be taken in order for change happen. True, the maturation process of change may expedite itself at times, but we can’t expect change to happen overnight. In these closing remarks, I ask of you, the reader to think. I witness, every day, in the student center, sitting at a table right in front of Chili’s, a study group, a group of friends, or colleagues. These groups are made up of individuals of all different racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Remember what was written before? A hundred years ago, there very well may have been someone, putting in the effort, making the sacrifices for this scenario to happen, but this person would never live to see this. To see what you see, and what you experience. Is it worth partaking in the maturation process of change, to develop change, to raise it if you never get to see change you want see when it’s all said and done? To know you that you will not live to see the fruits of your labor. Is it worth it? •

We are a culture that values living in the moment.

the question, “What will the U.S. look like in 100 years?” The responses were quite consistent. Most students couldn’t really think of the first place to start. Many students couldn’t even imagine there being a United States in 100 years. After considering what’s happening today, are we really on a path to destruction? Are we a nation divided by race, gender, religion, class, age or sexual orientation? Are these divisions only going to grow more and more? Are we falling behind economically? It’s of course noted that in lieu of the fall of industrialization, many nations have adjusted to this new economic climate. Again, think of all the abandoned warehouses and factories. While many of these factories have been abandoned, many european countries have invested in constructing plants, producing clean renewable energy. Creating not just more clean energy, but also numerous amounts of jobs. Perhaps this election cycle is the catalyst provided to describe the negative stereotypes of all Americans. So many countries like Norway, Sweden, and Germany are making plenty of contributions to the world, where we’ve quite possibly have just been falling behind. Are we the superpower that we used to be? Think of the countless news stories pertaining to police using excessive force. Perhaps the rocky tensions the U.S. has with other nations will turn violent and contribute to this demise. Maybe this fall won’t be the result of a foreign entity but the most delicate straw is broken by one of us. Where are we headed?



a letter to



ear Black Boyfriend, I am a white woman, as I am sure you know by now. I know that it was not the first thought on your mind when you fell in love with me, just as your skin color was not the first on mine. I never quite understood the implications of what it truly meant to date a man of color until I began to notice name after name beginning to pile up: Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Alton Sterling. Terence Crutcher. Keith Lamar Scott...the list goes on and on. It seems like it will never end, and quite honestly, that scares me. I am well aware of how the world views you. They see you as a threat to society, as someone to be feared, as an individual who is lazy and expects handouts from them. That is the polar opposite of how I perceive you. You are more than just a boyfriend; you are a soulmate, made perfectly just for me. You are not only a handsome man filled with intellect and soul, you are also a protector, a lover, a male-muse and


most importantly, a source of pure joy and happiness. A starry night sky is incomparable to the beauty that you hold within you. Your deep brown eyes allow me to get lost in a world I never could have imagined: one filled with love, lust and liberation. You give me a plethora of feelings I never want to lose sight of. Depths of the blue sea rise in my eyes as I am overwhelmed with the person you are. You are the solution to my sorrow and the reason for my smile. Beauty was never beautiful until you showed me what beauty was. Love was unattainable until you placed it within my grasp. I’m moved by you in every way possible. You demand nothing but require everything. You are the escape route I have always searched for. You bleed my passions and embody my soul. You remove the negative and bring forth a light that shines only when you are around. You are the beauty I searched for in this world. I feel the absolute need and urgency to inform you of this every chance I get because I do not want you to have

a doubt in your mind about how I feel about you, and someone has to remind you of your greatness — the very greatness society chooses to turn a blind eye to. Your impact on my life is insanely beautiful. It is something I’ve never had the chance to experience with anyone else, nor do I ever want to. You are the epitome of the perfect man, even with your imperfections. The world views you through an opposite lense. When you walk down the street, even the police do not see a normal human being. They see the stereotypical, threatening black male looking for trouble; another thug on the street. They see you as another animal to hunt, to shoot, to murder. Someone who is less than what the dominant culture wants you to be. What do they want you to be? It angers me to even attempt to answer that question because the answer is either to be a white man or to be complacent and assimilate. It angers me that no matter how many times I scream who you truly are to the world, they seem to always come back to the conclusion that you are no good for it.

cally. You are working to get your degree in biology so that you can go to medical school and accomplish what society and the systemic barriers seldom let black men do: become a successful doctor. I was ecstatic about the job you had in the summer--you have no idea how great an impact you made on those young black men when you taught through the REACH program at University Schools. You do not realize how amazing it is for them to see you, work with you, and learn from you, especially in a sea of people who are not as beautifully crafted as you are.

I do not want to turn on the news and see your name across the screen.

In reality it is the world that is no good for you. I can recall one of our very first dates at the Cleveland Art Museum, my favorite place in the world to be. That first time we went together, it was the most magical experience I’ve ever had. We leisurely strolled from room to room. I explained literally every aspect of nearly every piece to you as if I was a curator. You listened to me with such attentiveness; I knew at that point you were absolutely crazy about me. Your entire focus was on me, and though my focus was mostly on the artwork, I noticed that those around us had an eye on something else — you. Looks shot from every direction. The confusion. The accusations. The mistrust. The disgust. In attempt to not ruin a perfect afternoon, I held my tongue and let the fury boil inside of me. I never told you that people viewed us as if we were some sort of freak show, because I already knew you must have been well aware of it. From the perspective of my race, dating a black male provokes judgement. I have been asked countless times if I was dating you on purpose to piss my parents off. I was told by countless people that this is just a phase and that I will be married to a white man when I get out of it. The people I care for the most have told me constantly that you are going to cheat on me or leave me because that is “what black guys do.” I know that you probably do not get anything better from people of your race either. They constantly congratulate you on getting yourself a “snow bunny,” demonstrating that you increased your status in society. Others tell you that you need a strong black woman and that I am nothing compared to that. The list could go on forever, but no one seems to realize how incorrect these perceptions can be. Or how hurtful. Anyways, congratulations! You are a sophomore in college, even though the school does not treat you as if you are a student there just because you are part of the 8% African American population. I can recall the stories you told me about how the campus police did not believe that you and your friends are students, or that an African American student organization on campus was in this year-long fight to be able to get a space of their own for studying and mingling with other students. Despite all of that, you are succeeding and making them take notice of you academi-

That’s another reason why I want us to have a son in the future, because he will have a father like you. A strong-willed, intellectual, funny, well-versed father to look up to and be loved by while I supplement the rest of the love and support he needs. I am fearful as I review that list of names again. What if your name is in the news one day? I do not want to attend your funeral because you died at the hands of police officers. I am stuck with this thought on my mind that I cannot protect you from the evils that this world carries, especially when it comes to the way they treat black people in America. Between the microaggressions and the blatantly racist comments, to the constant insensitivity extended toward you about issues that affect you like police brutality, it is no surprise that you try to keep a low profile. I do not

want you to become another hashtag. This thought consumes my mind every single day. I do not want to turn on the news and see your name across the screen. I do not want to hear the voices of the police officers stating that they shot you a ridiculous number of times because they “feared for their lives.” I do not want them to fear you because you have beautiful, brown skin. I do not want you to have to live in fear of the people who should be protecting you. I cannot promise you that being with a white woman will keep you safe from these terrible realities, nor could I lie to you and say that it does not make you more of a target. I can promise you that I will love you unconditionally. I can promise that even if the world sees you as something you are not, I will see you as you are. I can promise that I will make you the happiest man alive, even when the world tries to bring you down. I can promise to fight for your rights as a black man in America just as much or even more than you. I can promise that we can teach our kids everything they need to know, especially when it pertains to being a person of color. I can promise to listen to you when you are being discriminated against or feel as if you are never good enough for the world. I can promise that no matter what happens in this life, I will always be here for you, and I will support you in your aspirations, and I will help you become the best person you wish to become in any capacity you may need.

I love you forever, my beautiful king. Always, Your White Girlfriend


Ain’t I a Black Woman?

// Danielle Harris

Often, when I write I never do it for the right reasons. Most times, I do it based off an emotion that has completely overpowered me at the time, because of a piece I read that leads my thoughts to spiral or sometimes just because I believe that an audience will like it. However today to be quite frank, I did not write this piece for anyone in this room nor will I pretend to concern myself with the fact of whether or not you are even listening to me. Respectfully, I do not care. Because when I am asked to write a single piece constructed of all of the many thoughts that clash around my head, I know that there is no way I can no longer write for you. Thoughts that are even too much for me to comprehend, thoughts that drive me to my breaking point. And I ask myself, Danielle Harris who are writing for? I think, and I think. And this is what I envision. I see a young beautiful black girl, who stares into the depth of my soul begging, yearning for me to speak for her. She wants me to let my thoughts be known, because she cannot even write. The distinguished slashes in her garments and the dried tears on her face displays one of the many pieces to her broken puzzle. She’s been taught her entire life that she is worthless and she must do nothing but lay there as a puppet while the master uses her body in whichever way he pleases. The vision I have of this girl of dubious age is so very lucid that it is quite harrow-


ing. I see the dirt road she stands upon in front of the disguised prison referred to as a plantation. Her master has raised her to believe that she is nothing but a worthless, ignorant, filthy animal and this same girl is begging me to SPEAK. So again, I am not here for you, I am here for this little girl because she has something to say. The degradation a black woman experienced during the times of slavery is unfathomable. Envision a mother dressing her daughter in her finest clothes, wiping her tears, before slapping her saying that she has raised no coward. “Prepare yourself girl, this is what we must do to survive!” She stares into her daughter’s eyes with only the love a mother could possess. While walking towards the Master’s House, she prays to God for mercy on the master’s soul. A few seconds after knocking on the door, Massa answered with the smell of whiskey oozing from his breath and a lascivious grin like no other. “She looks just like you.” He pulls her daughter in just as she gasps for help. The mother stands there as she hears the familiar smack that sends her daughter plundering into the floor and turns away to walk back to her quarters. How do you prepare your daughter to be abused by the one who raped you just the same, months before? That black mother was not weak, that mother knew how to survive. Black women have continuously survived the beatings America’s hands have laid upon us.

Today our struggle has only disguised itself through means of media with its ignorant labels. Shows such as Scandal will have one to believe that the ONLY way a black woman can rise to power is by sleeping with the most powerful man in the country, the President of the United States, who so happens to be a white man on the show. Have we not proven ourselves to be worthy of being brilliant and successful without the help of being someone’s dark little secret? But then again, what is expected of me? If I were to follow the stereotypes of a black young female, I would be pregnant, standing in line at the Welfare department cussing out the lady at the front desk for wasting my time while I could be at home waiting on my baby daddy’s collect calls. That is the rudimentary belief of my worthiness. This ideal is so widely broadcasted that most believe this to be our only outlet. What about the black women at Spelman, Harvard, Juilliard? Oh right, they are only there because of affirmative action. These conventional images must be replaced by what a true African woman resembles. The grace in her stride to as she walks into the office, the glare from her melanin as she lays under the sun reading the words of Angela Davis, the grease on her hands from fixing her daughter’s hair for picture day , the burns on her skin from backing away too slowly from the frying pan, the roaring laughter while watching reruns of Good Times,


the vibration in her hips as she dances along to “Doo wa Ditty” by Zapp, the shouts at her children to come and clean the kitchen -- she better not have to tell you again, and the smile as she sees the king she acknowledges as her strong black husband. The woman that does what it takes, by any means necessary to survive. That is strong back Queen I know. So hear me when I say that I am not writing for you, I am simply stating that I writing for the girl who believed

she had no voice. The beautiful black girl who knew what it took to live in this cruel world as an African female and wanted me to speak and help you fight through it. That little girl whom I see so clearly has spoken and asks at a convention full of men, for all of the Black women in the room today to rise upon their feet. She asks you to repeat and resonate these four words spoken ever so proudly by Sojourner Truth, “Aint I (pause) a Woman?” Now I want you to add on one more word,

and carry this phrase with you whenever America tries to destroy you, which it inevitably will try to do so, “Aint I (pause) a BLACK Woman?” Don’t let the world shake you, your crowd must not be tilted. May God bless Men of Jesus, this convention, and may God bless our strong Black Women. Thank you.


Spending Time by Alana Whelan Waiting for something to happen to me Waiting for someone to think There is worth in being with me Looking out into the stars Seeing everything I long to be Sitting in my bedroom Consuming everything I want to let inspire me I am not a robot I am a human And so I do not know why I’m not Letting myself be one I waste away behind my screen Longing for something For someone to answer me For someone to give me a sign that they care I am waiting, here In my bedroom Where my thoughts engulf my every being And my fingertips lose all feeling As I press away at the bulging keys But no one nowhere seems to hear me Even when I get a response It is never a response I truly want What am I looking for? A convoluted, seething war Or an act of sympathy Toward me One that I do not need What am I waiting for? A word that will begin a fire in my soul Something that will spark my heart A beautiful, lonely piece of art

Someone who has the same thoughts And will understand me when I cry Someone who is not scared to die Or try To become the person they have always dreamed of being A luminescent human being



Like me, like you That is what I want


“Dear Men in Blue” By Ar’yana Allen

I’m praying hard for better days I promise I’m going to hold on So many of my brothers dead and gone Flying high with the man in the sky Looking down Waiting for something to be done We go around screaming and protesting Retweet the hash tags Is that all we can do? What the white man fails to realize is: We only want one thing. A simple solution Justice and EQUALITY We’re not asking for REVENGE We don’t want or need any problems However that message hasn’t been received What would happen if Black people came together? Why are you so afraid of us? Why do you have the idea that we want to cause you harm? Why can’t white people comprehend that we want the same thing as them? To be able to walk to the corner store To be able to reach into our pockets To stand outside on the corner Why do I need to fear my life? Whenever I see a police officer? Why do I feel like I’m a criminal? Why do I feel like I’ve done something wrong? Then it all hits me My black skin is a crime My black skin can cause bodily harm My BLACK skin puts fear into others My BLACK skin makes me guilty. Never mind the fact I’m a college student with Dreams and ambitions Never mind the fact that I am a female The problem is my melanin. Who knew it could be so powerful So powerful that it causes an entire race to shoot first And ask questions while I’m lying on the ground My blood seeping into the cracks of a broken society Who knew that my skin could be an epidemic? That has no cure. Who knew I would have to reconsider having kids? Because I would have to fear for them BECAUSE OF THEIR GORGEOUS BLACK SKIN Who knew I would have to fear for my future husband So handsome, so tall and ambitious Skin the color of bronze and hair like wool My king, who knew? FEBRUARY 2016 | VINDICATOR 19


Seasons Laura Howard

But my hands are ice cold now Like the way you stare Right at me, Right through me. And it seems that No matter which way I turn, The bitter taste of you Is always at the Back of my throat And the tip of my tongue. The seasons are starting to change

Though and I’ll be trading in my Thoughts of you for a warm Sweater to shield me from The chill of autumn’s hand Which is big enough to wrap Around my shoulders and infest My very being with rotten colors And moldy thoughts like The ones I’m thinking right now, “I miss you” So I’ll close my window and turn On my fan to drown out the heat And muffle my thoughts, even If it’s only for a little while When winter rolls around I’ll be Shivering because there aren’t enough Blankets in the world to keep your cold

Lips from whispering in my head And not even melted snow can Wash away the putrid colored stains On my lungs from when I ate, slept, And breathed you. Spring will sneak in and I’ll find myself Picking petals: loves me, loves me not But will always end on half a petal Broken like the time you shattered glass For the heck of it. Landing somewhere In between loves me and not. And before I know it, a whole year Of seasons will go by that will have been Sans you. This can only get easier in the end.


The humidity is rising, dear And it reminds me of the way You made my palms sweaty As the sunlight cascaded down From the sky and all around Your magnificent smile.

A Lack of Carbination No one told the leaf that when it leaves the tree, it will return. It falls, only to be gobbled, gargled and swallowed whole by the crust and mantle. The leaf meets the roots once again. And when a garden gnome treats you as one of their own… This joke expands and never ends. Two horses left to their own devices For once a breath of indignation takes hold and leaves you to think, “Here I lived and here I died.” In a sense, losing is necessary and destined. Losing is in nature, an essential good. So go ahead, eat your Wheaties and die. A talent everyone shares, To cease to be.


Poem by Anonymous


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