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ORBIS

Amplifying Vanderbilt’s Progressive Voices

Vol. 10/No. 7/March/2011

The War on Women

Read more on 4, 11

Activism on Alternative Spring Break, page 8


In THis Issue

a note from the editor

March 2011

co n t en t s

Page 2 • ORBIS

During a recent job interview, I posed an unstrategic question that had been troubling me for some time. With Project Veritas and deceptively-edited Fox News reports dominating the media discourse on the right, I asked, how should progressive journalists negotiate the risk that we too might find ourselves misrepresenting the facts in order to support our point of view? My interviewer paused thoughtfully, and acknowledged that the possibility troubled her as well. She explained that she believes the way to combat the urge to bend the truth in order to fight big injustices is to engage in constant self-criticism, and an ongoing mindfulness that we, just like the right, have the potential to be flawed, dishonest journalists. That’s what has motivated us at ORBIS this year: the battle to present disparate voices and unvoiced injustices to the Vanderbilt community. In this issue, our writers confront minority harassment at Vanderbilt, the Republican battle to disenfranchise women and opportunities for activism and community outreach on and off campus. So at the end of the day, we need to balance the progressive goals of representing the facts honestly while influencing policy and promoting important conversations on campus. Fortunately, an unflinching examination of worker relations, issues of social justice and the successes and failures of multiculturalism cannot fail to motivate us to do more in the service of progressivism - and maybe to look more critically at our own motivations. -Jon Christian

03. Spotlight: Muslim Student Association By Jon Christian

04. Jessica Valenti speaks at SLC By Dylan Thomas

05. Mobile Market combats food deserts By Andri Alexandrou

06. AMIGOS screens “Hablamos Español” By Maria Ochoa

07. The Edgy Vedgy: The soy myth By Sarah O’Brien

08. ASB fights for workers’ rights By Caitlin Mitchell

Published with support from the Center for American Progress/Campus Progress Online at http://www.campusprogress.org

ORBIS

Amplifying Vanderbilt's Progressive Voices March 2011

10. Muslim students confront harassment By Sami Safiullah

11. Republican legislation hurts women By Aimee Sobhani

Volume 10, Number 7

Jon Christian Editor-in-Chief

Carol Chen

Associate Editor

Aimee Sobhani

Commentary Editor

Andri Alexandrou

“The Flip Side” Editor

Meghan O’Neill Features Editor

Thomas Shattuck

Distribution Director

Erika Hyde

4439

number of American military deaths in Iraq since March 2003 Cover design: Jon Christian/Andri Alexandrou/Carol Chen

Editor Emeritus

What is ORBIS?

Questions, comments, concerns? E-mail us at vanderbiltorbis@gmail.com. E-mail submissions to the address listed above, or send to Box 1669, Station B, Nashville, TN, 37235. Letters must be received one week prior to publication and must include the writer's name, year, school and telephone number. All submissions will be verified. Unsigned letters will not be published. ORBIS reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity. All submissions become property of ORBIS and must conform to the legal standards of Vanderbilt Student Communications, Inc., of which ORBIS is a division.

ORBIS aspires to change the atmosphere on Vanderbilt's campus and provides a voice for liberal, multicultural and minority viewpoints. This publication strives to inform the public about issues that these groups face as well as to promote diversity and unity within our community. It is a forum for discussion of social, political and religious commentary relevant to Vanderbilt, the nation and the world. ORBIS was founded by a coalition of students seeking to raise consciousness about diverse ideas, cultures and backgrounds in our society. We hope to challenge the existing social atmosphere at Vanderbilt and promote a rebirth of acceptance.

Editorials represent the policy of ORBIS as determined by the editorial board. Letters and commentary pieces represent the opinions of the writers. Please recycle.


SPOTLIGHT

March 2011

ORBIS • Page 3

Muslim Student Association seeks to educate By Jon Christian Editor-in-chief

For nearly 10 years, Vanderbilt’s Muslim Student Association has provided outreach and education about Islam to the Vanderbilt community, organized weekly prayer services and served as a peer support group for Muslim students on campus. “It’s just to educate the general public about what our religion really is, to combat negative stereotypes and to be there for the students,” said MSA president Hana Nasr. Although the group started small, they have built up a large network of Muslim students, faculty and staff. Now, their listserv includes more than 400 addresses and they work to organize two large-scale campus events a year: Islamic Awareness Week and Fast-a-Thon. Islamic Awareness Week, which takes place in the spring, is an informational event which incorporates guest peakers, panels and question and answer sessions with Muslim students. The goal, Nasr explains, is to demystify Islam for non-Muslim Vanderbilt students and to encourage an interfaith dialog. On the Friday of Islamic Awareness Week, there is an “Islam 101” gathering during which students can ask basic questions about the faith. Fast-a-thon, which is organized during the fall in conjunction with other Muslim student groups across the country, roughly coincides with

the Islamic tradition of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. The event recruits university students to take part, with local businesses pledging a donation per fasting student which benefits the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville.

“It’s just to educate the general public about what our religion really is, to combat negative stereotypes and to be there for the students,” said MSA president Hana Nasr. In the spirit of outreach, MSA is also dedicated to working with cultural, interfaith and other student organizations on campus-wide projects. Earlier this semester, MSA collaborated with the Black Cultural Center to bring Atallah Shabazz, daughter of influential activist Malcolm X, to campus as a joint venture between Black History Month and Islamic Awareness Week.

MSA also schedules weekly Friday prayer sessions at the John Keith Benton chapel, which are open to the public. Perhaps most importantly, MSA provides a sense of community for Muslim students at Vanderbilt, some of whom, including the international student community, have traveled far abroad to study at Vanderbilt. To promote a feeling of community among Vanderbilt’s diverse Muslim population, MSA organizes potluck dinners and an intramural soccer team. For the past two years, they have also held a celebration of Eid, which is the conclusion of Ramadan, at the Commons. “We’re here to provide [Muslim students] with a home-away-from-home type of environment,” Nasr said. MSA is also struggling to address recent incidents in which Muslim Vanderbilt students including Nasr - have been harassed and threatened on campus. Nasr explained that while she had grown used to occasional mean-spirited jabs in Nashville, the problem of harassment on Vanderbilt’s campus has only grown worse recently. MSA is exploring ways to deal with harassment by Vanderbilt students, and is also planning an educational session on Sharia in response to Tennessee’s proposed SB1028, legislation that would make adherence to Sharia religious practices, which are integral to Islam, a criminal offense. To learn more or become involved in Vanderbilt’s Muslim Student Association, contact Hana Nasr at hana.m.nasr@vanderbilt.edu.

Campus Progress’ annual National Conference in Washington, D.C. brings together 1,000 students and dozens of leading speakers (including past keynote speakers Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) for issue discussions, skills trainings and networking. We also hold DC, regional, and campus trainings on journalism, media skills and grassroots organizing. Visit http://campusprogress.org/ national_conference/ for more.

Check out the overhauled VanderbiltORBIS.com Read articles, send feedback and join the community http://www.vanderbiltorbis.com


Features

Page 4 • ORBIS

March 2011

Jessica Valenti speaks at Vanderbilt Cuninggim Lecturer promotes sex-positive feminism By Dylan Thomas staff writer

In celebration of Women’s History Month, this year ’s Cuninggim Lecture on Women in Culture and Society brought the fresh air of third-wave feminism to Vanderbilt campus. Jessica Valenti, a fiery sex-positive feminist known widely as the creator of Feministing, a popular Internet blog devoted to feminist causes, delivered the lecture’s keynote address to a packed audience in the Student Life Center ballroom Wednesday night. Valenti and the audience explored a smorgasbord of topics crucial to women’s equality. The talk started with popular conceptions of feminism and moved toward sensationalist media geared against women and the faulty ideal of virginity in Western culture. Opening the conversation, Valenti made it clear that her dedication to feminism is highly personal. “This month, I’m a feminist because the number one cause of death among pregnant women is murder, committed by their partners,” Valenti said. She also cited current legislation that would not only allow hospitals to refuse life-saving abortion services to women, but that would give hospitals the right to refuse to refer a woman in need of a life-saving abortion procedure to another hospital willing to perform the service. “And that’s only from this month,” she said. Valenti examined the overwhelmingly negative attitude toward feminism she witnesses both among individuals and the media. At one point, Valenti asked the audience to shout out words that recall the image

“It’s time to teach our daughters that women’s ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active,” said Valenti as she read from the introduction of The Purity Myth. of a stereotypical feminist, and responses included “lesbian,” “angry,” “bra-burning,” and “hairy.” Valenti attributed the propagation of the erroneous negative feminist stereotype to the worry of many that feminism is still a real and influential movement that carries a threat to its opponents. Later, she brought to light the growing trend among journalists and authors

to use bombast and scare tactics when discussing issues of women’s sexuality, citing news headlines of spring break “Girls Gone Bad” and anti-feminist

The talk started with popular conceptions of feminism and moved toward sensationalist media geared against women and the faulty ideal of virginity in Western culture. books with images of women who sit alone, heads buried in their hands. Valenti also addressed ideas from her recent book The Purity Myth, which focuses primarily on the problematic way Americans conceive of virginity and the detrimental effects this convoluted idea has on women and gender equality. The audience sat in angered shock when Valenti told the audience about the growing popularity (and previous government subsidization of) purity balls, prom-like events in which prepubescent girls promise to their fathers to remain chaste until marriage. On the other hand, she showed the crowd images of girls’ t-shirts sold at popular clothing stores geared toward pre-teens, emblazoned with phrases such as “I’m tight like spandex.” The main problem with our idea of virginity, Valenti argued, is that women are nearly forced in our culture to seek worth through their sexualities, and they are given mixed messages as to whether they should furiously cling to their virginity or oversexualize themselves, looking to billboards and Cosmopolitan covers for guidance. Throughout the talk, Valenti reiterated the importance of teaching young women to value themselves for more important characteristics than sexuality, or lack thereof. “It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active,” said Valenti as she read from the introduction of The Purity Myth.

After the address, Valenti took questions from a receptive crowd which was keen to explore ways to encourage and apply her brand of sex-positive third-wave feminism. Though she offered the crowd many pieces of advice, Valenti stressed in particular the importance of a comprehensive sex education program through middle school and high school as a necessary stepping stone to any major expansion of a sex-positive worldview, especially among college students. Valenti left the crowd with a reminder that how we conceive of virginity is more pervasive than we may permit ourselves to believe. She made clear to the audience that it is imperative to women and to gender equality that our attitudes toward women’s sexuality be critically examined—we may find the high value we place on virginity comes at a real cost we cannot bear. The Cuninggim Lecture on Women in Culture and Society is given annually during Women’s History Month and is sponsored by the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center. The Center, founded in 1978, works toward the advancement of women’s rights while providing a positive community for the women of Vanderbilt University.

Photo: ProgressiveBookClub.com


March 2011

FEATURES

ORBIS • Page 5

Mobile Market brings groceries to food deserts By Andri Alexandrou Editorial staff

For Ravi Patel, the Nashville Mobile Market is a small way to alleviate the plagues of local food deserts and the national health care crisis by providing groceries to neighborhoods that don’t have access to healthy food. The Mobile Market, which is Patel’s brainchild, originated in a community involvement-oriented Human and Organizational Development class, which encouraged its students to become aware of problems in the local community. In Patel’s class, they visited Nashville’s Edgehill neighborhood, one of the city’s lowest income areas, and researched what kind of access residents have to grocery stores. But in the Edgehill Neighborhood, something that should be so simple required a trip of two buses—and two fares— to a location two miles away. The two hour trip and the limitations of manually carrying groceries back and forth, they saw, posed a very real obstacle for already-struggling communities just trying to lead healthy lives. When Patel later pursued his hands-on work as a Vanderbilt Medical Student in the Edgehill area at the Shade Tree Clinic, he saw the long-term ramifications of poor health. He knew that the cure for diabetes, obesity and other diet-related illnesses lay not in medicines and lifetime prescriptions, but in the simple preventative medicine of a better diet and lifestyle. Thus the concept for the Nashville Mobile Market

was born. A proposal to work in conjunction with the Owen School of Business resulted in a plan that would create a self-sustaining mobile food market for communities that most need healthy food. Communities that suffer from a lack of grocery stores are known as “food deserts.”

The two hour trip and the limitations of manually carrying groceries back and forth, they saw, posed a very real obstacle for already-struggling communities just trying to lead healthy lives. “Grocery stores don’t seem to think it’s possible to be in those areas,” said Neil Issar, a spokesperson for the Nashville Mobile Market. “The only stores available are convenience stores that have unhealthy food.” And that’s why these communities are least able to compensate for the lack of healthy food by driving the required distance, or stocking up for longer durations of time. Food deserts become areas where residents become reliant on cheap fast food for daily nutrition. “Tennessee has some of the highest rates of obe-

sity,” Issar said. “We want people to look to the Nashville Mobile Market as a possible answer to the questions that health care raises.” While the Mobile Market’s primary operation is to provide healthy food to these communities, it will also serve to provide research on the habits of individuals once the problem of geography is eliminated. The price of food will be made somewhat more affordable, but long-term infrastructure is necessary. “We’re trying to buck the myth that these residents eat unhealthy just because of the price,” Issar said. While the Market is stationed in parking lots of local cooperative business, employees and volunteers will hold educational classes in the hopes of enabling residents to learn how to eat healthfully. This feeds into the initiative’s goals to establish healthy eating patterns and improve long term health in the area. “We want to provide a continual, self-sustaining food source for the area,” Issar said. “We’re looking to make some profit to go toward education programs for local elementary and high schools.” Hopefully, the education and new availability of healthier food will encourage an improvement in local health. That’s the Mobile Market’s final - and least concrete - objective. Depending on how permanent the Nashville Mobile Market becomes on the local landscape, this could provide a true preventative cure for the most preventable of diseases that currently weighs heavy on American medical systems. To find out more, or to learn how you can volunteer for the Nashville Mobile Market, visit to www.nashvillemobilemarket.org.

Photo: NashvilleMobileMarket.org


Immigration

Page 6 • ORBIS

March 2011

Documentary: Hablamos Español Vanderbilt AMIGOSs screen immigration documentary the opportunity to do so in the United States. She was also the first one to graduate from high school in her staff writer family. Participants in the panel discussion expressed their concerns for young immigrants who are law-abiding, In the last 15 years, the Latino population in Nashville responsible students yet do not have a future in this has experienced rapid growth. AMIGOS, a Vanderbilt country due to their immigration status. Professor of service organization dedicated to helping the Latino and sociology Katharine Donato expressed concern that Hispanic community in Nashville, hosted a screening this was not only a loss of home and motivation for Feb 28 of Will Pedigo’s “Hablamos Español,” a documenthem but a huge loss for the United States in human tary which depicts life on Nolensville Road, an area that capital. houses the largest number of Latino The principal of Anastacio immigrants in the city. Anastacio’s high school, also a memUsing historical data, interviews ber of the panel, expressed concern with both documented and undocthat a lot of students drop out and umented Latino immigrants and do poorly, starting at an early age, information from experts on local due to their knowledge that they are immigration legislation, the film not legally allowed to go to college. paints a clear picture of both the “There are tons of barriers for magnitude of the Latino commuimmigrant kids. There are lower nity and the obstacles that they face expectations set for them than for in order to achieve their “American others, and they fall behind until Dream” in Nashville. they stop coming,” she said. In the early 1990s, huge ecoThe end of the discussion took nomic growth in the South brought a turn towards how to improve the Hispanic immigrants to Nashville. livelihood of the 11 million undocuWork recruiters from prominent mented immigrants that live in the Nashville businesses like the United States today. José Gonzales Opryland Hotel attracted them to of Conexión Americas, a not-forthe city with the promise of work profit organization that promotes and a booming economy. After years of building lives in Nashville, Strict, post 9/11 enforcement of immigration legslation threatens to tear apart immigrant communities the advancement of Latino families, Photo: thearizonalawmanandphoenixpolicegazette.com is a strong advocate for comprehenthough, hostile post-9/11 legislation is now driving Hispanics away from what they have find a ride or I need to get someone to take me…Most of sive immigration reform. He favors securing the border by creating avenues for the people I know have already gone to jail just for being come to consider their home. “Back in 2001, no one cared. Nobody was asking about pulled over. They have quit their jobs. Most of the people people to come into the U.S. legally. He also is a propoyour legal status,” said Jose Rodriguez, leader of the I hang out with, I haven’t even seen,” said Anastacio, an undocumented recent high school graduate. church Iglesia Hispanica de Dios. Not only has Anastacio faced severe difficulties in getNow, however, residents of Nolensville live in fear of increasingly harsh immigration legislation that requires ting to and from work every day, but he is also unable to anyone stopped by the police to be detained unless realize his dream of going to college. He is the first one to graduate high school in his family and hoped to be an inspiration to his younger siblings and his community by pursuing a degree in higher education. When the DREAM Act was voted down, however, he lost hope and became part of the work force. After the screening of the documentary, AMIGOS hosted a panel discussion in which Anastacio took part. He revealed that his family is now one of many who think of moving back to their country of origin, in his case, Mexico. They feel torn in their decision because nent for “earned legalization,” a way for people to prove going back to Mexico would imply risks to their liveli- that they have lived in the United States as upstanding hood as well. “Being in the U.S. is safer than being over members of their community and thus deserve to be here they show identification. Since it became illegal during there…Some kidnappers think that as soon as you step in legally. If you wish to speak to Congresspeople about your own October 2007 for undocumented immigrants to obtain the U.S., you have money,” said Anastacio. Some of Anasacio’s peers have already gone back thoughts on immigration legislation in Tennessee, sign up for driver’s licenses, immigrants are commonly sent to jail so that they are able to further their education. Nancy, “American Day on the Hill” (March 29th), where you will get simply for having a broken taillight. This law has not only isolated the Hispanic a Mexican peer also in his graduating class, decided to a chance to do so. For more information, contact Vanderbilt community,but has divided it as well. Some documented attend college in Mexico City because she did not have Advocates for the Immigrant Community (VAIC).

By Maria Ochoa

Hostile post-9/11 legislation is now driving Hispanics away from what they have come to consider their home.

immigrants do not want to be associated with the stigma of being unlawful or illegal so they believe that strict immigration enforcement is a positive initiative. “I favor 287(g) [a partnership initiative between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local police], because if you break the law, you have to go to the police,” said David Lopez, who has legal immigration status. Others’ daily lives, however, are very negatively affected by this law. “If I am just trying to go work, I have to

Not only has Vargas faced severe difficulties in getting to and from work every day, but he is also unable to realize his dream of going to college.


LIFEStYLE

March 2011

ORBIS • Page 7

The Edgy Vedgy: Fighting back against “the soy myth” By sarah O’Brien LifestYLe COLUMNist

I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends who are contemplating vegetarianism or are vegan-curious, as well as our carnivorous friends, assume that we eat tons of tofu and drink soymilk like it’s water. While in fact many vegetarians and vegans probably do consume various soy products, it’s become something of a stereotype. It seems as though the most common question I get asked when talking about my vegetarianism is: “You must eat a lot of tofu then, right?” Personally, I do not consume a lot of soy products due to controversy over the long-term health effects of soy and highly processed foods. There’s a common idea that soy is a healthy meat substitute and an amazing source of protein, especially for those who do not consume meat and dairy. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of households in America consume some form of soy - often through unlikely channels like frozen foods, cereal and bread. Various “meat substitutes” as well as other vegetarian and vegan options are loaded up with soy products. A few popular veg-friendly brands consumed most often that contain high levels of soy are Silk, Tofutti, Morningstar Farms and miso. Soy exploded in popularity during the 1990s and

was described as a miracle food, due to its diverse uses and affinity with the green revolution in agriculture. But there was a financial component to selling the soy image to American consumers: manufacturers needed to persuade the public to give soy a try so they could reduce their production costs. In actuality, soy is a source of various anti-nutrients and plant

Personally, I do not consume a lot of soy products due to controversy over the long-term health effects of soy and highly processed foods. toxins, which are impossibly hard to get rid of even if you soak the soy product. Fermented soy is more healthy, but even then it should only be consumed in limited amounts. Some fermented soy products include tempeh, miso, tamari and soy sauce. While soy has been demonstrated to aid in preventing heart disease and make your bones stronger,

it has also been proven to have negative effects on health - a balance that consumers should be aware of. Some studies have demonstrated that many vegan women who consume soy often have low calcium intake. Similarly, soy protein has been demonstrated to inhibit the absorption of iron and zinc. There is also evidence that the effects of excessive or long-term consumption of soy products affect women more than men. Soy has been shown to delay the female ovulation cycle as well as cause irregular bleeding during periods. Similarly, soy may negatively affect women who are prone to breast cancer, women who have or have had breast cancer, or it simply may be a cause of breast cancer. These studies have shown that even in low amounts the main isofavone, which is a naturally occurring organic compound, in soybeans stimulates the growth of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer cells. Ironically, soy was originally marketed as having anticancer properties. Hopefully I didn’t completely turn off some of you from soy or make you feel as though you’re going to develop cancer, because that’s exactly what I thought when I started learning more about soy. However, I do hope that I was able to educate you all more on the actual effects soy has on the body and encourage you to consume less through a more balanced diet.

ORBIS recommends: March in music

The Blackout “Hope” April 4, 2011 Epitaph Records “Hope” is the third studio album from Welsh band The Blackout. Though the record is a small departure from the band’s earlier efforts, “Hope” is still fantastic, displaying the rocking post-hardcore that The Blackout is coming to be known for. Featuring guitar-driven tracks and rough, angry vocals, this album has the raw ambition that almost any music fan can get behind.

Britney Spears “Femme Fatale” March 25, 2011 Jive Records Britney Spears returns this month with her highly anticipated seventh studio album, “Femme Fatale.” Featuring an army of the industry’s most popular songwriters and producers, the album is a fast-paced effort chalk-full of dance anthems. It’s meant to be a shallow, upbeat work that will make you dance, and it does exactly that. Britney is no Rebecca Black, but by now she’s a classic.

Blackfield “Welcome to My DNA” March 28, 2011 Kscope Music On “Welcome to My DNA,” indie rock duo Blackfield deliver slow, harmonic rock. Combining vocal stylings similar to The Beatles with melancholic melodies one might find in late ‘80s/ early ‘90s rock (think The Smiths or The Cure), “Welcome to My DNA” is a fantastically addictive album.


Page 8 • ORBIS

Features

March 2011

VU students rally for workers’ rights at ASB in Florida By Caitlin Mitchell Staff writer

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure if my ASB trip, “Talking ‘Bout a Revolution,” would hold true to its title. I’d heard ASB veterans speak highly of the new found friendships they formed during the week, but they didn’t talk much about the actual service projects. Add to that car troubles that landed my group of twelve Vanderbilt students stranded at a Florida gas station for five hours, and soon others in my group were becoming apprehensive about what we would actually accomplish during a week with tomato farmers as well. But on our ASB trip, I think we planted seeds of a connection that will last for years. Our ASB site was called “Talking ‘Bout a Revolution,” and our group certainly witnessed and experienced revolutionary ideas and actions during our week in the Sunshine State. In fact, we actually began our week at a rally in Tampa against Publix. None of us knew quite what to expect, but we found ourselves in a festive atmosphere of free, vegetarian tamales, street theater, music and lots of friendly faces. We were tired from driving all night and being stuck at the gas station, but the positive attitudes of all who attended were too contagious to ignore. The rally was both a beautiful celebration of solidarity and

a powerful action for social justice. Why were we rallying against Publix? We had been told the answer to this question before our trip, but our week in Immokalee deepened our knowledge even further. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is an organization of immigrant tomato pickers in Immokalee, and they currently have a campaign to get Publix to pay farmers one penny more per pound of tomatoes. Their “Penny a Pound” campaign has already been successful against a number of fast food giants as well as food distribution corporations including Sodexho and Aramark. Super markets are the next frontier for CIW, and this rally was just one step in their fight for living wages and just treatment in the fields. Although we set out with this background information, we didn’t learn exactly how important the Penny a Pound campaign is in the everyday lives of these workers until we arrived in Immokalee. Wages have not been raised among tomato pickers in Immokalee for over thirty years, and they are paid by a piece rate of about forty cents for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they harvest. To earn the federal minimum wage, a worker would have to pick over two tons of tomatoes in one day. Unsurprisingly, workers earn far below minimum wage. Now, think about the fact that the major-

Demonstrators rallied in Tampa for better wages for tomato farmers in Immokalee, FL

Photo: Jon Christian

ity of these laborers are solitary immigrant men who are sending significant percentages of their wages to their families. These inhumane conditions are rooted in a long history of subjugating agricultural workers in Florida (as well as the greater United States). From the systems of chattel slavery and then sharecropping to the exclusion of farm workers

But on our ASB trip, I think we planted seeds of a connection that will last for years. from key New Deal protections, farm workers have historically been denied the power to fight for their rights in the United States. One of our group’s first activities in Immokalee was to tour the “downtown” area with our trusty guide from CIW, Oscar Otzoy. A powerful moment occurred when Oscar showed us a dirt lot full of run-down trailers (most of which were surrounded by countless bicycles because none of the laborers had cars) and asked us how much we estimated the cost of living in each trailer was. The answer? Living in one of the trailers costs about the same as a Manhattan apartment, he said. Furthermore, each one is packed with an average of twelve to fourteen men, and finding cheaper living conditions is virtually impossible because the same family owns all the housing in Immokalee. One morning, we woke up at five to go to the parking lots where tomato growers pick up workers to go to the fields. This was a disconcerting experience as well because while most growers transported workers in old school buses, some workers were literally just loaded into produce trucks. The coalition also showed us two sites in Immokalee where laborers had been held under conditions of actual slavery. One site was right in the middle of town only a few blocks away from CIW’s headquarters. At each site, workers had been chained and kept in trailers or box trucks at night. These two cases were brought to court in 1999 and 2008, but several more cases of modernday slavery have surfaced in the southeastern United States in the last fifteen years. CIW has been instrumental in taking these cases to court and has even produced a mobile modern slavery museum to raise awareness of the issue. Continued on page 9


March 2011

features

ORBIS • Page 9

Continued from page 8 Obviously, the Coalition fights for more than wage increases for tomato workers. When corporations agree to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes, they also sign an agreement to institute CIW’s code of conduct among the company’s tomato suppliers. Among other things, this code requires that workers receive minimum wage and that tomato growers provide basic amenities like shade and water for workers in the fields. CIW realized early in their organizing that harsh, unregulated working conditions could not be eliminated on a case-by-case basis. If the agricultural industry in the United States produces conditions that can harbor slavery and other atrocious working conditions, there are clearly problems within the industry’s regulations and structure. Broad and

Returning to the “VanderBubble” can be one of the most difficult parts of ASB: it’s difficult to know how to connect the week’s eye-opening experiences back with daily life. meaningful institutional changes are most likely to occur when workers address the industry’s deeply ingrained inequalities from the top down, for the large corporations at the top of the supply chain hold by far the most institutional power in this struggle. Thus, we found ourselves in a street rally outside a Publix in Tampa because we were combating the causes of inequality at their source. I must admit that I had been skeptical about the ASB experience before we left, but my opinions completely changed over the course of the week. This was my first time participating in ASB, and I wondered if our time in Immokalee would be meaningful. Many reports I’d received from friends concerning past ASB experiences only seemed to reflect the fun of creating personal friendships among group members rather than the actual service components of the trips. The actual logistics of our own trip did not include a tremendous amount of “hard” service, but our group was able to help serve the community throughout the week. We volunteered in the mornings at an amazing daycare initially founded because migrant women working in the fields had to leave their babies in boxes beside the fields because they had no access to affordable childcare, and we also worked for a day at one of the largest Habitat for Humanity sites in the United States. Our afternoons were generally reserved for

educational meetings and tours with the Coalition. The chance to participate in Habitat was especially appreciated by many members of our ASB group because it was difficult to learn about slavery and injustice without simultaneously being given tan-

Gerardo Reyes, a member of CIW, told us that they did not want volunteers like us to come to Immokalee so we could feel pity for workers’ lives, help out for a few hours and then return home. gible and physical tasks for funneling our energy toward CIW’s causes. The Coalition’s attitude toward outside service was made very clear to us from our very first day in Immokalee. Gerardo Reyes, a member of CIW, told us that they did not want volunteers like us to come to Immokalee so we could feel pity for workers’ lives, help out for a few hours and then return

home. They certainly appreciate service organizations, but their goal is far loftier than simply accepting outsider alleviation of their problems. Instead, the Coalition wants to eliminate the actual causes of labor injustices through their own collective power as human beings. As a result, their request from us was that we join them in their struggle and continue to take action with them after we left Immokalee. Returning to the “VanderBubble” can be one of the most difficult parts of ASB: it’s difficult to know how to connect the week’s eye-opening experiences back with daily life. Fortunately, student organizations have been integral in the Coalition’s success, so anyone can help them work for justice. Vanderbilt has a student organization called the Vanderbilt Campaign for Fair Food that works closely with CIW, and members of our ASB group are now helping them organize and execute several exciting events. Representatives from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are bringing their Modern Slavery Museum to Vanderbilt on Friday, March 25. The museum will be completely free and will be on Alumni Lawn all day for anyone who wants to see it. Workers will also be present to talk to anyone who is interested. There will also be a protest against the Antioch Publix on Saturday, March 26. If interested in attending the rally, please contact vanderbiltfairfood@googlegroups.com or myself at caitlin.f.mitchell@vanderbilt. edu.


Page 10 • ORBIS

Features

March 2011

Hate speech, Islamaphobia strike campus By Sami Safiullah Staff writer

I was walking with my friends Hana and Mahmood toward Stevenson Library just before midnight on the Thursday before spring break. A man, accompanied by a woman, came across the Peabody bridge toward us. He must have noticed Hana’s headscarf and Mahmood’s beard, because he confronted us and started shouting epithets. I could smell alcohol and his eyes were bloodshot. “Al-Qaeda!” he screamed. “You killed my people? Trying to kill my family?” He lunged forward as if to attack us, before a woman with him pulled him back. My heart pounded as we ran into Stevenson. I’d never seen the man before, but based on the way he was dressed at the time I believe he is a student. The woman grabbed him and redirected him toward Central Library.

“Al-Qaeda!” he screamed. “You killed my people? Trying to kill my family?” “I was so scared that I felt my body shivering, and actually had a few tears in my eyes,” said Hana Nasr, a senior. “I was so angry that something of this nature could happen on Vanderbilt’s campus, and even angrier that I had to run away from someone who I didn’t know [and hadn’t] done anything to!” The Muslim community center near the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan is the most controversial mosque site that has been met with resistance in the past year, but it is certainly not the only one. Closer to home, after demonstrations and legal opposition to a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro were exhausted, opponents set fire to construction equipment at the site. But even after that incident, Muslim students at Vanderbilt never had cause to feel unsafe. Even after an Abt-TIME poll found that 46 percent of Americans believe Islam is more likely to promote violence than other religions, until recently incidents like this only seemed to happen off campus. What is it that is poisoning Americans against Islam again, nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks? I drove to the University of Tennessee in Memphis with 10 members of the Vanderbilt

Muslim community to see “Mooz-lum,” an independent film directed by Qasim Basir. The film, which analyzes what it is like to be a Muslim college student in the post-9/11 United States, tells the story of a university student who is forced to cope with actions of violence against himself and his community in the Sept. 11 aftermath. Basir, an African American Muslim, said that the film “is an autobiographical recollection of the events of my life, focusing on the hardships I faced as a result of my ethnicity and faith.” Basir set out to make “Mooz-lum,” which stars Danny Glover and Evan Ross, after a lifethreatening car accident. He explained that the film, which has had a limited release, is intended to explain that Islamaphobia in America is due to misdirected anger and general ignorance about the faith. “American Muslims are far removed from violence, whether in the form of revolution in the Middle East or whether in the form of hate against other Americans. After Sept. 11, we lived here just as normally as everyone else, going to school, attending parties, and keeping up with

TV shows,” said Vanderbilt alumna Neelam Khan. “It doesn’t make sense that we have suddenly morphed into this inherently violent group of people fervently aiming to take over America as

our own.” Acts of violence and aggression against American Muslims are often explained as isolated incidents that do not represent widespread misunderstandings and prejudices. But I don’t buy

After years of apparent progress after Sept. 11, Muslims are experiencing a backlash as the direct result of politicians like Bill Ketron and Peter King, who are stoking the flames of Islamaphobia for political gain. it: after years of apparent progress after Sept. 11, Muslims are experiencing a backlash as the direct result of politicians like Bill Ketron and Peter King, who are stoking the flames of Islamaphobia for political gain. At least, that’s the way I feel as a victim of a terrifying incident like this. There is nothing glamorous about being verbally or physically assaulted for your religious beliefs. And certainly not about the shooting death of Surinder Singh, a Sikh who was shot and killed in Sacramento after being mistaken for a Muslim. Could we go vague? In spite incidents like these on campus and around Tennessee, many Muslim students at Vanderbilt remain determined to better our campus by discussing tolerance and strengthening our bonds of diversity. “[Mooz-lum] was quite captivating, its portrayal of the life of a Muslim growing up in America exposed many of the struggles Muslims face in our country,” said Vanderbilt sophomore Mohamed al-Hendy. “But beyond the actual movie, just the fact that a movie like this could draw so many bigname actors and be available to large audiences across the United States is remarkable in and of itself.” Americans cannot exist in a bubble, where cultures and customs outside of our daily norm are seen as a threat to our status quo. America has always been a multicultural society built from the ground up by people of different ethnicities and religions. And in America, nobody should be afraid to be, dress or worship the way they want.


March 2011

opinion

ORBIS • Page 11

It’s time to stop the Republican war on women By Aimee Sobhani Commentary editor

Republicans have gone too far on social issues related to women. They are proposing very conservative measures that most of the country will not agree with. The important question is whether the hunger to cut budgets will blind people to what is actually being cut. Many people assume that women have gained parity with men in the United States, but that’s far from the truth. According to a comprehensive study about women in the United States, even though women have made tremendous gains in terms of education, we still lag behind in pay (we only earn

pletely defund the organization. While it’s unlikely that Obama and the Senate will stand for this, the Republicans are sending a clear message: they don’t mind restricting low-income women’s access to birth control, which is pretty ironic since more access to birth control equals fewer abortions. 3. Cutting programs that benefit women and children. Republicans have proposed cutting more than $700 billion from food-assistance programs for women and children. In other words, they want to increase the number of unwanted children being born by restricting access to birth control and abortion but decrease the ability of poor women to feed

Republicans have gone too far on social issues related to women. about 80 cents for every dollar of income men earn) and are more likely to be living in poverty. While the gender gap is certainly shrinking, there’s a real possibility that women will lose ground in the fight to gain equality thanks to several Republican-sponsored bills floating around in both state and national congresses. Here are just a few of the latest schemes Republicans have created to make life even more difficult for women than it already is. Most of them have to deal with the Republicans’ favorite topic: abortion. 1. Redefining rape. In late January, Republicans in Congress tried to specify that rape is only real rape if it involves force. Drawing a firestorm of criticism, Republicans removed the controversial language from the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” Still, the fact that they tried is a bit unnerving. A woman who has been raped is already traumatized enough. Why would Republicans want to make her life even worse by restricting her right to a federallyfunded abortion (which is legal in the case of rape)? 2. Defunding Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is an organization that Republicans simply can’t stand, and it’s not surprising that Republicans want to severely disable the organization now that they are in control of Congress. The House of Representatives has already voted to com-

their unwanted children. Great strategy. 4. Keeping women in the kitchen. Republicans also want to cut funding to the pre-K Head Start program. Not only does this stifle educational opportunities for poor children, but it also means that working mothers don’t have an affordable place to leave their children while they’re on the job. 5. Legalizing homicide. “Justifiable homicide” bills are particularly popular at the state level. The idea of a justifiable homicide is that it legalizes the murder of abortion providers in order to protect a fetus. Justifiable homicide supporters often argue that such measures are meant to give women the ability to protect themselves if someone is trying to harm their fetus. However, the lack of clarity in language allows for the protection of vigilantes who want to harm abortion providers. South Dakota failed to pass a justifiable homicide bill last month,

but Nevada is currently considering this legislation. The examples listed above are only the tip of the iceberg. There are countless bills pending in state legislatures dealing with “women’s issues,” and a majority of them will affect women in a negative way. The problem with most of these bills is that they

There are countless bills pending in state legislatures dealing with “women’s issues,” and a majority of them will affect women in a negative way. are incredibly counter intuitive. It doesn’t make any sense to reduce funding for birth control programs since obviously this leads to a rise in unwanted pregnancy. Reducing services for low-income women and children is problematic as well seeing as the lack of such services could actually encourage low-income women, who no longer have a governmental crutch, to terminate unwanted pregnancies. It’s not a coincidence that these sorts of bills started popping up when Republicans took control of government in many states and in the U.S. Congress. However, is making sweeping changes with respect to social issues, particularly issues affecting women, really what people voted for? I don’t think so. With slow economic improvement, it’s understandable that people would look to the party out of power for a solution. The Tea Party gained popularity because it promised to reduce the debt and reign in the budget, not because they promised to create a new social order. Though swing voters supported Republicans for Congress more for economic reasons than for social reasons, it is important to recognize that the two issues are closely related. Cutting spending and balancing the budget can and will have social consequences, especially if the acts mentioned above are passed. Unfortunately, the consequences seem to disproportionately affect women. I don’t think Republicans hate women, but some of the bills they propose leave me wondering whether or not they want women to progress. Women’s access to abortions, living assistance programs and childcare have huge implications on the ability of women - especially single, low-income women with children - to better their lives. Hopefully, this realization will become widespread enough to stop detrimental congressional acts.


THE FLIP SIDE

Page 12 • ORBIS

ATTENTION NASHVILLE-A-PHOBES Pinkberry the best thing in Nashville? Yeah, right. Last week in class I overheard a student telling someone else to go to Pinkberry. Yeah, sure, it’s great. Then he said it was the best thing in Nashville. Wait, what? Experiences like this have been the catalyst for my newest crusade: to pop the Vandy Bubble and bring students a little taste of Nashville from the experience of a native. (That’s moi.) Last month I sent you to Opryland Hotel, 12th and Porter, Mediterannean Cuisine and Clothing XChange. Most of these are right on our back porch. Here are some more places to get you rolling well on your way to roaming the streets like you live here. Welcome to my world. On behalf of Nashville, with love and music kisses, -Andri Alexandrou Somewhere to Dance:

Mercy Lounge

A short cab ride from campus, the Mercy Lounge is an attractive blend of bar and venue good enough to make almost any night of the week memorable. The lounge exists in four parts: a central bar, a stage, a pool room and a large patio that looks over the Nashville skyline. The shows I’ve been to have all been packed, though not uncomfortable, and dance-worthy even for those unfamiliar with the acts. The Mercy Lounge has good taste, so even if you haven’t heard of the artists yet you may soon. The Mercy Lounge recently incorporated the larger Cannery Ballroom downstairs, capacious enough for bigger acts like Of Montreal and The White Stripes (one of those acts I wish I’d attended). The building was at one point an actual cannery, but the location has been for a much larger part of its history a point of Nashville entertainment, whether a restaurant, a country music theatre or simply a venue like it is today. The Mercy Lounge is certainly a part of Nashville history worth getting to know and enjoy while you’re here for your four years. To get you started, some upcoming artists are the Cold War Kids (3/28), Dashboard Confessional (3/31) and The Kills (4/22).

March 2011

Somewhere on the Card: Café Coco Hold your eye roll right there.Yes, at a glance Café Coco looks like a hipster dive. Believe me, I’ve been going to this place for about five years now and my relationship with the establishment on Louise Ave has definitely been one of love and hate. For any superficial shortcoming, though, I think Café Coco ultimately offers more to gain that ultimately makes it a worthy destination on nearly any occasion. The Café is a café at heart, obviously. They host a full menu board of coffee possibilities, plus a few specialties. A favorite of mine through the years has been the pumpkin spice latte, equally enjoyable as both a hot and cold drink. They also have a variety of beers to choose from, which I have yet to experience but will undoubtedly take advantage of once I can. When you visit, be sure to give the food menu a good looking over as well. The prices may seem a little steep for deli-style service, but I assure you that the quality and offerings are something perhaps superior to other local restaurants with the same prices. I love the tortellini elliston, and pretty much every other pasta. The sandwiches, the pizza (which is more like a bread dish with cheese and other toppings—delicious), the chips and salsa. I’ve recently grown to love their hot wings. A strange offering for a café, but quality nonetheless. What becomes Café Coco’s true draw is its plentiful outdoor seating. A beautiful tin overhang makes the front patio picturesque, complete with overgrown vines and white string lights that make any balmy night truly enchanting. After a hard winter, spending a lazy lunch or dinner outside drinking a heart-warming coffee on their patio will remind you why you might want to step outside again.

Somewhere to Chill: Chago’s Cantina A nice place to wander around on a sunny day or balmy evening—as these spring days are growing to be—is down on Belmont Boulevard. The street has a handful of nearby restaurants that are different without being haunted by the Vandyland vibe. This is where you can find the restaurant Chago’s Cantina, nestled cozily between a full Bongo Java store (which if you have yet to visit, is a must. The Nashville franchise is a favorite for locals and college kids) and two other dinner-style restaurants. Chago’s Cantina has a casual atmosphere, albeit with some cheesy faux-Mexican décor, with plenty of room for seating large groups. Two large outdoor patios will surely be the highlight of its floorplan once we get winter off our back. The menu is short, listing only the Mexican necessities: tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, etc. They also have a full bar and drink menu. I ordered tacos, because I feel that a restaurant’s taco can sum up the full menu. They had several options, so I went with chicken, carne asada, and fish tacos—which I tried for the first time. They also have vegetarian options, with an entire panel listing some very delicious sounding treats. The tacos were great. They kept the ingredients down to a few essentials—meat of choice, onion and cilantro over which I could squeeze lime juice. The fish taco had a creamy, ranch sauce on top. Chago’s clearly has a taste for well-seasoned, simple and honest entrees. The chips and salsa (free with the meal, as it should be), echoed this simplicity in its light tomato, cilantro and onion construction. It was the perfect quenching salsa for before and after my dinner. I’ll be heading back to Chago’s as soon as I can flounce around in spring dresses and drink margaritas on their patio.


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