Category Archives: Student Posts

Seeds of Change

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By Abraham Kadi

The soft, blanket of winter starts to melt away and feed the surrounding landscape

As animals and critters start to waken from their slumber,

And we, me & you, like a flower we are to sprout after moments of introspection.

After days inside…waiting for our time to blossom.

We are ready and have always been ready

To be that seed, planting our influence our knowledge, and passion for change.

But as a seed, alone, we are nothing…nothing but food for birds.

We can’t grow and become more without help from others.

We need to nourish each other when we are feeling drained.

We need to energize each other when we are lacking motivation

And we need each other to help spread our movements

In hopes that one day our passions will be rooted deeply and connected so that nothing can pull us apart.

(Shared during the Seeds of Change Recognition event held by SAIL)

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Lego land

By Bridget Anim

kid you not! There was a person who had no heart or soul

Bitter, heartless, despicable much like a troll

Your money, possessions this person would take and make you lack

Strip all your clothes right off your back

I’m serious, this person had no limits, that I can bet

Anyone come up with a name yet?

It’s cool, let’s see if this definition is revealing

Cause this person is quite cunning and a bit concealing

The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient  in amount

The state of being poor

That’s the topic of interest POVERTY enough has been said.

Ever had that moment, where you have a vision that no one else sees? You just Want to change the world, make it a better place?

Improve it and make it worth the living space?

Especially when this happens in the shower and makes you feel like you’re on a mission

Well, when you step out of the shower, leave behind that vision and sudden empowerment. You left all the knowledge and power in the shower.

Kind of like playing a game of bingo, you get a bingo and don’t shout it out

At the end of the game, you claim to have had a bingo. Who’s not going to look at you without doubt?

They’ll probably be like: you mean to say you had a bingo this whole entire time, sat there and let it remain in your head? Didn’t act upon it, nothing was said.

How can poverty be used to facilitate social change?

And not make a persistent person who’s compassionate about social change look deranged?

person thinking that they’re better than everyone else full of arrogance & pride

Then they act all oblivious, lies! They’re way on the negativity side

Poverty can facilitate social change, by establishing that materialistic objects, will never define you.

Each person is unique, wouldn’t you say so? I think it’s true.

still need to expand upon my answer, hang in there, I’m approaching a finish

Hopefully everything being said sticks with you and doesn’t diminish

Children, don’t see color, aren’t filled with negativity, innocent beings who are  phenomenally pure

The Kingdom of Heaven belong to them, Christ confirmed it, that I am sure

Saw a couple of children playing with legos and these two boys lacked a few legos, they didn’t have enough

Their incomplete lego building looked rough

The other kids didn’t quite notice in the beginning, but realized later on and shared their legos without a fight

It was such a wonderful sight

It wasn’t long until the two boys who lacked legos, build a lovely castle

The other kids quickly noticed the castle and wanted to play with it a bit of a hassle

All is being said is that poverty can facilitate social change if each person willingly

Acts like the other kids with the legos, ignoring financial situations fulfillingly

It only takes one person to stand against maltreatment

Then when forces are joined to produce a solution, there is little lament

Now, what the lego may mean to me may be different to you

But whatever the case may be, it is still a step to making a change too!

CPAC Reflection

By Theo Meale

The Deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post and of my favorite journalists, Ruth Marcus, wrote a column this past Tuesday that has been on my mind over the course of the past three days. As a 59 year old self professed liberal, she briefly described her days as a young reporter who witnessed the events of the Reagan administration and was unhappy with his “undermining of the Civil Rights Division” of the Justice Department. Nonetheless, after visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, she felt what she calls “Reagan nostalgia” after being reminded of how Reagan appointed the first female Supreme Court justice, respected the media, apologized for his misdeeds in the Iran-contra affair, welcomed refugees, and spoke with a “Morning in America” tone. In spite of having an apparently more positive view of Reagan’s policies and presidency than Ruth Marcus, I generally agree with her political views and almost always empathize with her feelings of nostalgia under President Trump.

But as I sat in the front of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord Resort in Maryland, known as CPAC with a fantastic group of students from the floor, I heard a another thought provoking comment in a speech given by Laura Ingraham, a Fox News Channel contributor and conservative radio host. Ingraham spoke about a long list of complaints that the media made about Reagan that sounded similar to the frequent comments that Trump’s critics make about him; that Trump is “evasive”, and has aides who “frequently contradict each other” and who “shield” him from news conferences. She then talked about how critics of Trump are nostalgic to the days of Reagan, and predicted that in decades ahead, Trump’s critics would be nostalgic to his administration other under Republican presidents, for reasons including Trump inviting Democrats to the White House. Although all other attendees from my LLC agreed with Laura Ingraham, I disagreed with entirely as young people by vast margins dislike Trump intensely, and I believe that for the Republican party to survive they will have to appeal to a younger generation of voters, who will not vote for Trump or anyone with a similar ideology.

After Laura Ingraham spoke, the entire room, including myself, stood up, clapped, and erupted in awe as the 45th President Of The United States walked into the room. Like members of Congress during the State Of The Union, the group of us on the floor would stand up and clap when the president said something we approved of and sit down silently and politely when he said things we disapproved of. While I didn’t find the frequency of any particular group member’s clapping surprising, the frequency with which everyone did clap certainly matched everyone’s idea of each other’s ideology and political views: Trai and David as self-described conservatives and Trump supporters clapped at most of Trump’s statements, Jacob and Andrew as self-described “liberals” seldom clapped, and I as a self described “institutionalist” (which leads to having views all over the political spectrum) clapped occasionally at Trump’s statements about supporting background checks for gun purchases, border security, and newly announced sanctions on North Korea. Having said that, in spite of the points of agreement I had with Trump’s speech, his decision to (truthfully) tell the audience he was going to go off script for “fun” and attack the news media, speak in awkward fragments, boast about the swing states he won in 2016, and read a poem called “The Snake” to compare letting immigrants and refugees into the United States to letting a poisonous snake into a house all reminded me many of the reasons why I have always disliked Trump to begin with.

After walking out of the conference room after Trump’s roughly 75 minute long speech, I chatted with the other LLC members who came to CPAC about the speech. It was agreed unanimously that we had all experienced Trump’s incoherent and aggressive nature to the fullest. Where our views of the speech varied was the extent to which we agreed with its content, which was already reflected in how much we had clapped during the speech. After David asked me if my points of agreement with Trump could change my view of him, I said no and told him why. Regardless of how much I may agree with Trump, and regardless of whether Bob Mueller vindicates him entirely in his alleged crimes, there is no circumstance in which I can overlook Trump’s behavior towards Russia in firing an FBI Director because he didn’t like “this Russia thing” as he described it, rejecting the intelligence community’s report that Russia interfered with our elections, sharing classified information about Israel with the Russians, praising Putin, and refusing to put sanctions on Russia for interfering in our elections.This was of conversation today as Trai and David politely told me that while Russia’s behavior towards the United States is bad, that the United States has also interfered with elections and supported autocracies and even does so to this day. I acknowledge that the United States has interfered with elections in Latin America and the Middle East and even forms alliances with brutal governments in those regions today, but I also would emphasize that the United States, while not perfect, has a much better human rights record than Russia or China, and unlike in developing countries, our people generally do value democracy and accept a “social contract” as Jean Jacques Rousseau put it.

 

But unlike other instances since November of 2016 when I have gone to political events whose speakers I didn’t agree with, including Trump’s inauguration, I didn’t leave CPAC and Trump’s speech feeling angry at all. Instead, I felt that I learned to better understand the views of 25-35% of the country. Since I have arrived at GMU and taken government and intelligence courses, I have developed an agenda towards working in national security for the good of the United States. While in a polarized country that can has different meanings to different people, for me that keeping America safe means defending all of our people and the values “against all enemies, foreign and domestic” as said in the Oath of Enlistment. That includes my friends and family, city and people who share similar values to me like Ruth Marcus, but also those who have a very different agenda for this country, whether it be on my floor in foreign policy discussions or even the people at CPAC who attack the very institutions that I support and want to be a part of. I have to work to keep all of those people happy and safe too because, as Marco Rubio said in the 2016 campaign, “an American president (or any leader or bureaucrat as I would be) has to love all of the American people. Even the ones that don’t love you back.” That is what I intend to do and going to CPAC has helped me come closer to being the leader who lives by that standard that I want to have for myself in national security.

Wonder Woman for Child Justice

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By Mason Service Corps Student

Describe your service site and role?

I should first state that for personal safety reasons, I cannot share my photo.

I chose to do my work with Child Justice, Inc., a non-profit organization. As stated on their Website, they “provide legal services and advocacy for children’s rights.  Child Justice seeks to ensure that courts protect children in cases of abuse and family violence.” Please read about the organization and the amazing work they do at:  http://child-justice.org/about/.

I have been personally affected by this issue and have chosen to use my pain as fuel to help others in these circumstances. As such, I have volunteered for Child Justice for a number of years. I serve as a support for abused women and sometimes as just someone safe to talk to. I help mothers navigate behavioral problems that their abused children display and help to find psychological support services. I help meet the needs a woman may have – whether it be organizing a spontaneous move or helping to explain legalese. I court-watch for a variety of cases involving domestic violence, including murder trials, kidnapping trials, and civil cases at the intersection of child abuse, domestic violence, and custody. Court-watching is important for oversight of local courts and for counsel representing the abuser. In addition, I consult on these cases with attorneys representing the abused women and children. I also lobby Congress for H.Con.Res.72. Please look it up and write your representative in Congress to co-sponsor this legislation!

What did you learn from your Mason Service Corps experience that you will apply in the future?

I learned most through my interviews of the attorneys. They gave me good insight to the practice of law in this area. It is an emotionally exhausting job and it takes a very special way of thinking to win these cases. More law schools should have courses that specialize in this area of law.

How did this experience challenge your assumptions and stereotypes?

When an abuser challenges a protective parent in court for custody of the children, they are successful in gaining custody over 70% of the time. This is an overwhelming statistic and it happens in every state in the country – some jurisdictions are worse than others. It is infuriating that when this topic is discussed publically – nobody wants to hear it, believe it, or deal with it. A great current example is Roy Moore. He was a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama and is a serial pedophile and abuser. When people like him or with his intrinsic bias hear cases involving domestic violence – they are not apt to believe the woman.

The post-Weinstein era has opened the flood gates and more and more businesses – even democrats in both the House and Senate – have started believing women. Women do not make up these allegations, neither do children. It is simply too difficult to do. In fact, statistics show that an abused child lies about being abused less than 1% of the time. I never thought I would see the day that women are believed and it definitely challenged me to start believing in hope a little more. My assumptions are being challenged and I hope they continue to be challenged and hopefully one day – flat out wrong.

Discuss a social problem that you have come in contact with during your service work. What do you think are the root causes of this problem? Explain how your service may or may not contribute to its alleviation

Judges are incredibly critical of women and hold them to a much, much higher standard and openly criticize them in court, calling them hysterical, crazy, and too sensitive to abuse. There are so many root causes of this. The most deeply ingrained is the tendency to disbelieve women, even when there is blatant evidence of abuse when the standard of proof in civil cases is the preponderance of the evidence. Judges are actually taught to discredit women when allegations of domestic violence and child abuse are raised after she leaves her abuser. Learning how to compensate for this in the courtroom will hopefully help to combat the bias.

What are some of the challenges you faced during this experience? What will you take away from your experience with Mason Service Corps

My biggest challenge was learning that abused women can react to a certain set of circumstances in a variety of unexpected ways. Reactions come in different forms and learning to recognize what triggers the client is important. Going through the divorce process with children is enough of a stressor for those who haven’t experienced abuse. For a client that is being abused and is forced to send her children to the man that abuses them is gut wrenching. Watching a woman not knowing if it will be the very last time that she sees her child is gut wrenching. Asking this person to think clearly, put emotions aside, and work on her case can be a near impossible feat. The client is very important and plays a big role during this process. If the client breaks down, so will the case.

I will take away from this course the need for continued and consistent self-reflection. Reminding myself of why I am doing this work will help solidify my commitment to this cause. It is a very exhausting line of work and if I do not take care of myself first, I can’t help others. Learning how to manage emotions is an important skill. Sometimes I envision the scene in Wonder Woman when she is running across the battlefield, dodging the arrows, and pressing on literally in the face of adversity. That scene gets me through days that sometimes feel impossible.

 

A note from SAIL Director, Patty Mathison: This student is a true hero in every sense of the word. I had the privilege to work with this extraordinary human being this past semester and was blown away by the care, the compassion and most significantly, her ability to overcome adversity and use that “pain as fuel to help others.” I had shared with this student that this does not need to be shared publicly, and she replied that she would love to share this as the more people know about this crisis, the better. I feel honored to have worked with and learned from this Wonder Woman. 

The Wrong Side of Heaven

By Trai Gozzi

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_l4Ab5FRwM

While there are many thankless jobs an American can undertake, one of the most thankless jobs is serving our country in the world’s finest military. We as Americans often take many things for granted, such as having the freedom to pursue our dreams because our rights and freedom have always been protected by a select few who serve our country.

For the past 15 years, the United States has been at war and we as Americans have asked the men and women to fight to keep our country safe. In recent years, America has forgotten that there has been sustained engagement in warzones such as Afghanistan and we have also forgotten the silent struggles our veterans face, as they leave the military and face the struggle of readjusting to civilian life. This music video raises awareness to the American public that veterans are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress and homelessness.

What I hope this music video does for those who watch it is to realize that men and women are still fighting in wars across the world. We as Americans have the responsibility to take care of the warfighters and their families who sacrifice years of their life for selfless service to our country to ensure our safety and make sure when veterans need help, we help them.

Color Me Purple

By: Anasia Napper

I started writing this once, but I had too many thoughts and too many words, and I did not want to be up here speaking for too long, so I’m going to tell you what I find funny.

Black women have been victims for centuries.

They have been assaulted, raped, murdered, kidnapped, verbally abused, hated, and mocked by people we now have to call enemies.

Some of these problems aren’t problems exclusive to black women,

but no one seems to wanna talk about issues if they don’t affect them.

I read The Color Purple a year ago, and if you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a little synopsis.

Celie is a 14-year-old girl who writes letter to God about her father who rapes and abuses her, but adores her sis.

Then, she writes about her older husband who does the same shit.

I still haven’t told you what’s funny.

This story took place in the 1920s, and here it is almost 100 years later,

And black girls and women are still going through this.

Did you know more than half of black women have been sexually assaulted?

Did you know that black women make up 8% of the overall population,

but 22% of domestic violence homicides in the nation?

Some people will say that “They can always leave.”

The funny thing is, black women make less money than black men and white men and women, leaving them financially dependent on their abusers.

What’s that saying? Something like “Low-income women can’t be choosers?”

“Femicide” is the killing of females by males solely due to their gender.

Husbands and boyfriends are almost always the offenders.

The funny thing is, 93% of these homicides are intra-racial,

Meaning the killers are black men.

As a girl who loves black men, admitting that black men don’t always love us is painful.

Black men get away with too much because black women have to choose between their racial groups and gender groups.

Most of the time, their racial group is chosen.

And that is devotion.

The funny thing is, I can’t entirely blame black men.

They are also victims of oppression.

What may be important in understanding this

is to understand PTSS

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Black folks have been a little messed up since they took us from home.

During slavery, Willie Lynch said black men were like wild horses—they had to be broken.

So black men went through a brutal process of emasculation.

Today, some of these black men do things because of this mentality,

But let’s get back to reality,

We gotta figure out what we are going to do now

We gotta figure out when we gone do it and how

We can start by addressing our mental health and well-being.

The funny thing is, the saying about “a strong, black woman” is doing more harm than good

Black women don’t seek counseling, but if we got rid of this saying, maybe they would.

Black men don’t want to go either because they are told to man up.

Then, we act surprised when their emotions build up and they erupt.

Violence against women is an issue, but black women are victims whose stories aren’t even written.

They’re hidden.

If anyone asks what I spoke about today, you don’t have to tell them the first thing I said or even the latter.

Just tell them what needs to be said and proven on the daily, #BlackWomenMatter

Lives cannot be replaced, #blacklivesmatter

By: Tabatha Donley 

         Queering Leadership. The Hero’s Journey: Reigniting a Passion to Serve and Lead. Changing the Conversation on Global Development through Powerful Messaging. With over 90 workshops and panels offered at the annual IMPACT Conference, it was a daily struggle to pick and choose among enticing topics. Most insightful for me was attending the “Forward through Ferguson: A Path Towards Racial Equity” panel, which featured three scholar-activists, two of whom served on the Ferguson Commission.
           Weaving in the history and demographics of St. Louis, the panelists answered poignant questions regarding the aftermath of Michael Brown’s unjust death, examining the value of protests and “calling out.” Through the course of several hours, I was in absolute awe of the sheer intelligence, passion, and dedication these women (yes, they were allwomen) possessed. Chills ran through my body as these fierce women shared their experiences and expressed their opinions, unapologetically.
“Can’t you find another way to protest?”
           The Q&A session revealed how much work is needed in our own social justice spaces. As with anything, good intentions do not necessarily equate to good results; in fact, even the best of intentions can have harmful consequences. A fellow conference participant (white, female) prefaced her question with her disdain for protests that interrupt traffic. She stated that one such protest in her hometown shut down the freeway which resulted in a large inconvenience: her commute to work was severely delayed, therefore she lost money. She pleaded that there must be a better way to protest — one that does not inconvenience others who would otherwise support causes like #blacklivesmatter. She reiterated that she was all for social justice. It was interesting to observe the crowd: some were nodding in agreement with the questioner, while others shook their heads. Panelist Amy Hunter (check out her amazing Ted Talk here) answered with perfection. She acknowledged that certain protests do indeed inconvenience others…yet, she encouraged the student – and the audience in general – to see the big picture: if a traffic blockade is what it takes to save another black child — to prevent another black mother from grieving over her dead child — surely, it is worth the “inconvenience.” Money can be replaced; lives cannot. The whole room fell silent and was taken away by Ms. Hunter’s candor in reminding folks what is really at stake here: human lives. Most commonly, black lives. The questioner was visibly shook, as she received a big reality check assessing her privilege and power.
To call OUT or IN?
           Another highlight was the discussion of calling out. A common practice for social activists, calling out brings public attention to one’s oppressive behavior, and paves the way for increased education and accountability. Yet, as many conference participants expressed, calling out seems ineffective or harsh at times — deterring possible allies from joining the movement. Once again, Ms. Hunter came in clutch: she first reminded folks how imperative calling people out can be: not only is oppressive behavior identified and corrected, communal healing can take place if folks were directly harmed by the oppression. Yet, Ms. Hunter also gave the questioner’s claim some legitimacy, and advocated another approach: “calling in.” She talked about radical love, and how addressing someone’s oppressive behavior more personally and privately can reduce embarrassment – but most importantly, help the individual learn, grow, and be hip to cause.
           Immediately afterwards, a co-panelist stressed that calling out is more effective, and that there is simply not enough energy to call people in all the time. Ultimately, the panelists agreed that both calling out and calling in hold merit, emphasizing that each situation is unique. Energy and compassion cannot be easily renewed – particularly if one experiences frequent micro and macro-aggressions. Marginalized people are not obligated to educate their oppressors; their self-care comes first. As Audre Lorde famously expressed, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”                                                                                                        My time in St. Louis rejuvenated my passion for social justice, reaffirmed the importance of community, and inspired me to continue the good fight. I encourage everyone – especially underclassmen – to partake in IMPACT and stay woke. A million thanks to SAIL for affording this senior with the opportunity to continually learn and grow.