Category Archives: Uncategorized

Just a Word- A Poem

By Emma Evans

Just A Word

What is a word?

Scattered sounds, jumbled symbols

Floating, intertwining.

In reality, they are just shapes and sounds

But for us they are representations

Filled with the power of our ideas.

What are words?

We use them to include and discriminate

To empower and dehumanize

To build relationships and tear them down.

We use them effortlessly

When they strengthen and inspire us

We are unstoppable

But as they sting and lash out against us

We wonder how we let them grow so strong.

We wonder why we have to fight so hard against them

Why it’s so easy to let them define us

When in reality, they are just shapes and sounds

But they do have power

Because we never really forget.

What is a word?

We’ve seen them start wars

And call for peace

We’ve seen them create solidarity.

But all along, we wonder.

How is it that

When they heal lives and destroy lives,

It just takes one word?

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.

 

Waking an Active Citizen

By: Mousa Abusaif

I spent a great deal of effort, at some point in time, trying to decide which I preferred watching: the sunrise, or sunset. I was as familiar with both as any young person in the States probably is today: A handful of sunrises to a wealth of sunsets. It takes a specific calling, or some other odd reason, to wake a young adult up, when the air is still chilled and the morning dew settles heavily on sharp and glistening blades of grass. In the event of this weekend past, that drive just happened to manifest in the form of an annual conference: in which the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC, paired with the Social Action and Integrative Learning NCC, has traditionally spearheaded Mason’s presence. Nonetheless, entirely voluntary and with no other incentive but to learn and contribute, we packed a van full of eager students, at the break of dawn I add, for the three plus hour drive to Williamsburg Virginia; and the following is what we discovered.

From across the Commonwealth hundreds of likeminded students forfeited their Saturdays to converge on a venue of education; seeking to alleviate some of that responsibility, and acquire new skill-sets to change their, and the greater world. I believe there has never been a more difficult time than in this modern era, in which we are all endowed with a certain responsibility and capability, to remedy the paradigmatic dilemmas of this great human race. From prison reform, to grassroots funding, to my lecture on the divisiveness and polarization of today’s socio-political spectrum; in these few hours there was an ostentatious deal to be revealed. We imposed our perspectives, principles, and mutual knowledge in interactive forums of learning. But more than that, we grew together: in navigating the hiking trails of that historic town, the halls of those hallowed buildings, the spirits and desires of those advantageous students. From sunrise to sunset we were together, and to expound no further: not having to decide between the two beauties, seems to be the greatest privilege of a day well spent.

2017 IMPACT Conference

By: Sarah Kladler

This year I attended the 2017 National IMPACT Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. The conference centered around social action and service learning, bringing hundreds of motivated social justice warriors under one roof. The Conference lasted four days and consisted of keynote speakers, panels, and workshops led by nonprofit leaders, school administrators, and college students. When we weren’t in group sessions, we had time to explore the St. Louis area. We visited local restaurants and bars, walked past the largest city park in the country, and spent an evening at the City Museum, which believe me, was one of the coolest places I have ever been in my life. The City Museum is a huge indoor/outdoor playground for adults and children alike, with multiple story-long slides and spiral tunnels weaved through the ceiling—the place is a real-life version of Shoots and Ladders meets Chuckie Cheese’s, meets an eccentric sculpture installation. It’s insane!

During the Conference I also had the opportunity to present a workshop to me peers tilted, The Image as Social Commentary: the Power Behind Visual Persuasion. My workshop centered around images and introduced how images, driven by a society devoted to visual stimuli through constant exposure to marketing and the media, have the unique and extraordinary power to persuade and comment on the world around us. Participants learned that the formation of social stereotypes and biases are often formed through images we see in ads and driven by our implicit bias. I also introduced artists, such as Hank Willis Thomas and KC Adams, who use their art as a form of social action. Thomas seeks to inform the public of how we unconsciously absorb social bias through the images we see. KC Adams, on the other hand, works to replace our bias with positive, truthful images. Check out their work here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdR0GOLF918

http://www.kcadams.net/

I want to thank SAIL for providing me the opportunity to attend this conference. If you are reading this and you haven’t been to a conference, or are looking for other opportunities to expand your knowledge about social justice, come by the SAIL office to learn about upcoming our events and other opportunities!

IMPACT Conference

By: Michael Galfetti
.
Thanks to SAIL’s generous full-funding, I was able to take my research to Washington University at St. Louis and listen to excellent scholar activists who were “ready to be free”. Throughout the conference, I witnesses the most optimism I have seen on a stage since the election of Donald Trump. The women who sat on the Ferguson panel, and yes, they were all women, had their hands on the long arm of the universe and were bending it towards justice—without holding back. They candidly stated that they were ‘likely to be run over laying down in front of an immigration bus’ but were pleased with the progress in the opening of American consciousness towards the gross inequities our society has (always) perpetuated. All that to say, I enjoyed the Ferguson panel. Those women gave one of the most important lectures of my college career; they were open, loving, hard-working, respectful, freedom fighters. It feels egotistical to comment on my own research in line with theirs so I will start a new paragraph.
.
My presentation was attended by about 30 people (students and administrators (mainly students)) and we dialogued about the role emotions have to play in replacing truth—focusing around the 2017 election. Together we were able to build a new model for understanding conversations about political truths. There are experiences universal to all people; the example we used was the feeling of being judged. Then there are individual experiences of being judged; this is a subjective and highly personal experience. Lastly, there is the objective, numerical, piece of being judged in society; do the “facts” show that black people are more likely to be arrested for the same crime as white people? (yes) In creating this model together the group was able to see how commentators—the media—are navigating conversations concerning issues of social justice. What arguments are salient in communities? What “truths” are individuals believing and why are they believing it? Are questions open to investigation under this model precisely because it recognizes the use of emotional charged rhetoric that may be relying on a shared history of people. It is a little like the old maxim: if you say anything enough it becomes true. Except it fills in more after the period “if you say anything enough it becomes true because it connects to personal myths and stories that are shared among communities”.
.
The opportunities of the 2017 IMPACT conference were thought-provoking and professional-advancing. Thank you to the office of Social Action and Integrative Learning for the opportunity and support.