Art of a Revolution: Blood on the Streets

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CMU’s MLK March

Ok. So many thoughts and too many feelings.

This week, many of CMU’s offices and organizations collaborated to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memory in a week long series of events and performances.

Because of the what’s been seen in the news for the past two-three years, I felt compelled to be a part of as much of this week as possible.  And even though I’ve considered myself a social justice advocate in the past, this week took my awareness to an entirely new level.   With each event I attended, my emotions became more rattled; my beliefs, shook; my faith in humanity; questioned. And the moments of the week that stood out the most weren’t the speakers. It wasn’t the statistics that got me, I’d heard those before.

It was the voice of the movement.  It was the reasons “why?” It was the art of the revolution that grabbed ahold of me and drowned me, making me think even further.

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Tyler Bradley delivering one of the most impactful monologues I have ever heard near the end of her production: Humanity

It was Tyler Bradley’s Humanity, a stage-dance production that addresses social issues beyond race, but depression, abuse, and more. These topics are translated through dance, set to the sounds of Michael Jackson and more.  The entire show is brutally honest, and provokes emotion from the audience.  Bradley fills it with so much of herself and her own experiences with humanity, it almost feels like a conversation one-on-one.

It was Macklemore releasing “White Privilege II” and reading along to the lyrics for the first time by myself, for the second time with my entire fraternity, and for a third time with my residence hall staff.  This song tells the story of white people exploiting black culture for benefit and then taking credit for what black culture gave them.  In reality, the song makes me so mad. Like, really? White people needed to hear about why black lives matter from a white american male to really understand it? It’s not like countless black artists have been chanting for change this whole time.

It was the march for Martin Luther King Jr. The masses coming together to continue in a march towards change and institutionalized equality.  The signs that read quotes of a better life in a better future, where dreams and reality are indecipherable.

It was the dance, the music, and the demonstration.  If you’re not a part of it, you’ll never know.  And I will never truly know, myself.  But being immersed in the energy these events bring will truly transform you.

And it should hurt.  Privilege sucks.  It really does, once you know about it.

It’s really easy to live each day without having to think about my skin color, without having to think about my speech. While some living and breathing american citizens are being denied job-after-job because “their personality just doesn’t fit,” me and my white skinned male-self only has to worry about not getting caught slacking at work.

When I turn on the news, I don’t see people of my race being held at gunpoint for petty theft.  I don’t see people of my race assembling to chant for governmental revision; but instead, I’m supposed to trust the white people who enforce the laws that limit these groups in the first place.

And I recognize that I will never be an absolute ally for Black Lives, because I cannot. I do not know your struggle, I will never understand it. But I can see it. And will raise my voice.

White people, I challenge you. Stop being so sensitive. I’m not even asking you to be nice to black people, I’m asking you to be aware of the statutes this government has in place to limit anyone who is not white.  I’m asking you to give up the “But I worked my ass off to get here, everyone is afforded the same opportunity” because you know as well as I do that opportunity is dispersed so blatantly unequal that this saying really needs to go.

Stop ignoring black culture, and learn about it.

Stop treating yourself to your own privilege

Make connections.

 

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I left the week feeling a smidge bitter.  How is it that our society has continued to fight for equity instead of resolving the issues in place that contribute to it? How is it that our generation is straddled with the same struggles our ancestors faced?  How is it that white people have continued to disenfranchise and marginalize communities that are different than themselves?  How is it that some people don’t even see this as an issue?

You might not be a racist, but you’re in a country that thrives off of supressing the lesser groups.  Your country indulges itself in a luxurious ignorance.  And to step out of this comfort zone, we must interact and learn from each other. The facts can be disputed (which white people are typically proud to do). The news head lines can be swayed politically.

But the connections you make with people who are different than yourself; that is where change happens. Seeing the reality of oppressed groups expressed through dance, reading lyrics pact with guilt, and marching alongside those who are still marching for freedom… It’s been a week. 

 

Thank you, CMU, for your beautiful efforts in raising awareness for the age-old fight for freedom.  Your MLK Week was filled with awesome opportunities to grow and become aware.

We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance like, yet we just stand by
We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?

-Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, White Privilege II

Reading this article will certainly not make you a better person.

Going out into your community will make you a better person.  Approaching groups that are different than you in a polite and honestly interested manner makes you a better person.  Understanding that you will never know first hand what it’s like to wake up in the morning and know you will be judged for the color of your skin is a baby-step towards equality.

It starts with you.

 

 

Treat Yo Self

So the fall semester is finally under way.  I have returned back to the Resident Assistant position in Kulhavi Hall, serving Transfer students from all over the country as they begin their career’s here at CMU.  Furthermore, I am still an engineering student, still a program coordinator, still in a fraternity, and still a TechOps expert.  So after weeks of RA staff training, the semester began, and I was already feeling a little overwhelmed. Not by my obligations.  Notice, the word “still” was used quite repetitively, so theose are all things I’m used to and love enough to continue doing.  Moreso by the changes in my environment.  I have a new roommate, my friends are going in different directions, and what felt like close is now feeling so far away.  What a melodramatic feeling to have, but a feeling nonetheless.  Additionally, it;s Labor Day Weekend, which means EVERYONE left CMU to visit their homes.  So now everuthing and everyone really is FAR away from me.  Luckily, I thought was so extreme turned out not to be. Obviously Mount Pleasant’s population did not dwindle to 1, it just felt like it.. Until a group of friends I dramatically figured weren’t here suggested we kayak the Chippewa River.  Claire

YES.  What an idea.  I’m cleaning my room, mind-numbingly so, when this idea finds me. I jump on it, because how fun does kayaking sound in comparison to anything, let alone cleaning? After a few phone calls and a quick breakfast, Claire, Becky, Liza and I are headed to Buckley’s Canoe rental.  On our way their, Claire is talking about how she wants to cross Paddle-Boarding off her Bucket list, so she’ll be doing that instead of kayaking.  I’ve never done it either, but I’m sold, because I’ve seen pictures and think it might be cool to do.

Now, they aren’t paying me to say this, but if you ever find yourself in the Mount Pleasant area and want to canoe/kayak/paddle board, Buckley’s is the place to go.  The people who rented us our equipment were so nice and familiar with departments on CMU’s campus and different programs, that it felt like we were doing something we’ve done a million times before.  They even greeted us and took that group picture for us before we even started talking about what we planned to do that day.  Oh, and the prices were incredible.  Like, I’d go next weekend if I had the time, because you truly get more than your money’s worth.

Any how, Claire and I got paddle boards while Becky and Liza hopped into their kayaks.  Paddle boarding is such a strange thing.  It’s pretty liberating, because you can stand, sit, lay, whatever you want really. And it is not hard at all.  Claire and I both got the hang of it pretty quickly.  Aside from getting stuck on maybe two or three rocks, we glided across the river with ease.

The day was perfect.  It was sunny, warm, away from college business, and exactly what I needed to treat myself.

During RA Staff Training, I participated in a presentation on “treating yourself.”  The concept is simple: we do a lot of work as RAMA staff that requires us to give up our time and resources for others; therefore, we need to consciously treat ourselves sometimes, or else we’ll forget to.  And that’s exactly what this trip was for me.  I got to spend all day doing something I have never done before in perfect weather with perfectly positive people. Alliteration man, alliteration.

It was as relaxing as it was physically demanding. And it was so fun.

So thank you Claire, Becky, Liza, and the people at Buckley’s, for giving me a day to forget about the minor discomforts in life, and instead, focus on soaking in the sun.

Sleep

Charleston: The Media’s Race to Bury the Topic of Race.

Don’t roll your just eyes yet.

I know, i’m just another kid voicing his opinion on the internet about the events that happened in Charleston, South Carolina. I get it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please crawl out from that rock you’ve been living underneath. Or do a google search. I’d provide a link, but that’d mean choosing a single news source, and in a minute you’ll hopefully understand why I will not do that.  This has been written a hundred times over at this point, by tons of otherwise more qualified or experienced writers, but let me be clear: this isn’t really an opinion article. Aside from all of my snark, I hope this helps you focus on the facts of the case.  Please do not let the media sway your attention towards politically driven content. Basically (and, chances are you’ve seen articles touch on this already), the news is taking steps that do not need to be taken.  What could I possibly mean?  Well, let me start from the beginning.

People who refuse to understand that racism still exists and can’t see that it exists at a fucking institutional and structural level are costing black people their lives.

-A passionate, potty-mouthed friend of mine

Two major news sources have been leading the Charleston coverage-race: CNN and Fox News.  If you choose to follow one, chances are you ignore the other . If you kept up with both, you could not have failed to notice the completely unparalleled reports being published. You might have caught yourself thinking: Wow, there really are two sides to every story.

Which is exactly what you would think after trying to connect the news-channel dots. But you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why in a second. (I’m an awful writer. No one likes to be told they’re wrong and here I am pointing my finger at you, screaming, yes, you’re wrong. Trust me I’m not trying to be cocky or omnipresent, I’m just out here trying to get people to realize some truth here).

Side 1: Fox News, my favorite, reported the “Charelston Church Massacre” (“massacre” often, spoken by their anchors with a stutter or bit of confusion, while the word “church” is always given a little more oompf) as an attack on christianity.  I couldn’t believe it either.  After an entire day of filed reports, statements made by the Justice Department, and strong pieces of evidence coming from the mouth of the killer, Fox News refused to include any mention of race as motive in the case.  Unsurprisingly, Fox News instead moved the conversation straight to (excuse me while I swallow this one) gun control. Their news coverage got real star-spangled-angsty, suggesting that we need guns should be made more available to promote safety. In an interview with Pastor Steve Doocy (I included the link to this interview already), one of the anchors asks: “Do you think that would fly inside a church? To have a pastor with a gun?” Doocy replies “Here’s the reality. I have an absolute obligation to defend [the members of his church], to protect them.” How noble. Further into the segment, he is referred to as a “Shepherd” and a continues to bring up the topic of guns in churches.  So now, Fox’s loyal following is presented with the most incredibly American image ever: priests packing heat. Sounds like a movie pitch to me. By the end of the day, Fox has managed to completely disregard the actual events of June 17th, not to mention, they mispronounce the last name of the murderer quite a bit. It’s spelt “Roof,” which is exactly how they say it most of the time; however, it’s actually pronounced more like “Ruff.” This is a minute detail, but shouldn’t news sources be paying that kind of attention? They’ve made a political campaign for revisions to gun control; revisions that would make guns more readily available… yet the fact that a 21 year old boy in Charleston, SC had access to a gun wasn’t proof enough that guns are already easily attainable. (Sorry for the sarcasm.)

As a quick cut to comic relief, I need to include a handful of comments my friends made about Fox News Channel:

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I don’t know if this is the exact article Sara is talking about, but I did find this.

Side 2: Probably more important, CNN: While they do a pretty solid job of keeping their reports focused on the story, they divert to the topic of mental illness a little quickly.  Let’s remember that mental illnesses are real, and by categorizing Dylann Roof as someone with a mental illness, we could be stigmatizing the term. This is so important because it is another excuse to avoid the real problem! Dylann Roof did not “lose his marbles.” CNN hinting at this possibility is as much of a surprise as Fox’s gun show; none at all. You might be thinking, hold up really, who in his or her “right-mind” would kill nine people of any race?  I’m kind of bullying you, and really I should be thanking you for reading this far into the post. However, if you’ve thought similarly to this, please visit the “stigmatizing mental illness” link. Racism is not a mental illness. Yeah, it’s sickening. His actions are immoral and irrational. No one is born hating another race- that is an emotion conditioned over time. Oddly enough, there is a term for that: racism. According to his roommate, Roof had the mindset of “starting a race war.”  People are desperately looking for an explanation to why he would kill, but the explanation is already there: racism. Racism. Excuse me, but it’s RACISM.

I honestly have nothing other than just sadness, once again. That we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other in the nexus of a just, gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist.

-Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

Remember when I said you were wrong for thinking there are two sides to every story? Or did I ramble so much that this has lost all continuity? Either way, let’s come back to that point. There aren’t two sides to this story. There isn’t a Side 1, nor a side 2, there is simply the story itself. Sadly, the story has been buried by talk of gun control, threats against Christianity, and mental illness. These different sides really serve no fundamental relevance in this discussion. And that’s the problem. People are misled to believe (and therefore, truly do believe) that the future of America will be bright again, if only we revise some of our legal systems! Hooray for progressive thought! Until, that is, the media abuses that energy, that engagement, and twists it to fit a political agenda. Racism is real. And we need it not to be.

Big Picture in Fewer Words:

  • Almost biweekly for the past year, major-scale race-related crimes and riots have happened in our own country. Let me list some trigger words:
    • Trayvon Martin
    • Michael Brown
    • Racist Fraternity Chants
    • Freddie Gray and the Baltimore Riots
  • As of June 2015, Nine Americans are dead because of their race.
  • America’s media sources do everything in their power to keep people talking about Gun control and Mental Illness
  • Americans are distracted by other topics now because media is restless
  • Racial inequality persists
  • AMERICAN lives continue to dwindle
  • Internal. Terrorism.

If it doesn’t scare the shit out of you that major news corporations are willing to risk all integrity and shape the stories in ways that push political agendas, it should. I cannot say this enough: the story published by CNN is entirely different from the one published by Fox. Admittedly, I was so shocked by the differences in content that I needed to make sure they were following the same story. These media outlets are JUST extensions of intuitions in power, and it’s amazing how much money being poured into twisting the information.

The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.

-Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

But of course the news corporations are twisting the stories! This is a reality most American high school students study in their government classes. Sorry for spending a lot of time on that, it just REALLY shocked me how the stories varied.

As for the racism: You might be thinking “but I swear I’m not racist I have black friends and do everything right all the time always!”

Well, I guess I can kind of relate. I feel as though I’m a relatively educated human, blessed to have gone through experiences that have led me to be a pretty decent human, followed in the footsteps of some pretty impressive role models, you get the idea. But even I, the well-rounded white kid in the Midwest, can feel and recognize a disconnect. I’ve only read a little bit into this, but it’s a pretty simple concept to understand: privilege means inherent ignorance. As a white, able-bodied, middle-class man in America, I am the epitome of privileged. I, nor any white man or woman, has ever thought about what it might feel like to live in a world where I am outnumbered. I thought by tweeting and posting and writing all of this, I could help; but still, we need to do more.

I reached out to a friend of mine who is passionate about working to resolve and educate throughout these types of occurrences.  Racial Inequality (and inequality to any scale, really) is something she cares deeply about changing. Knowing that my social media rants aren’t exactly the best for social change, I texted her: “how do I do something.” Real blunt. Real demanding. But hey, we’re swimming in the deep-end here. If that is a question you have asked yourself, here is her response  (It’s a pretty good one, even if it’s jam packed with curse words):

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Excuse her french, but she’s right.  Educate others, educate yourself, and do not stand for any of this.

Maybe start here:  Michelle Alexander, a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar, visited my university this past spring.  She delivered a message so relevant to all of this, it hurts.  And it’s the basics.  In her book, The New Jim Crow, Alexander outlines how the United States Government has taken racism and institutionalized it over time. It’s a nice starting place for those who are under the impression we are a jolly melting pot, fully accepting of all kinds of people and races.

To conclude:

BE aware. Until we have a news station hosted by Will McAvoy and the team at ACN, continue to (or start to) fact check.  Stand up against this. This is racism turned terrorism.  Nine Americans are dead because of this single event of hate. What are we going to do about it? What are YOU going to do about it? Jon Stewart predicts, quite hopelessly, that nothing is going to change. Unfortunately, for now, he’s probably right. Spread awareness. Read. Learn. Keep up.

Thanks for reading! Share your own thoughts in the comments below, and please share this if you feel it really gets the message home.

Do yourself a favor and buy that damn plane ticket already.

infinite satori

“Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.  I spent a large part of my youth traveling the world as a hippie. And what money did I have then? None. I barely had enough to pay for my fare. But I still consider those to have been the best years of my youth.The great lessons I learned has been precisely those that my journeys had taught me.”

-Paulo Coelho

I know you. You look through countless of travel blogs, browse through the travel section of the bookstore, read Lonely Planet guidebooks, and National Geographic magazines. You’re in love with city maps, atlases, and globes. You get shivers down your spine when you run your fingers down the tiny blood veins on a map as if it was breathing and coming alive. And it says to you, “Buy a god damn ticket and explore me.” But you don’t, because you…

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Substitute Fun for Fame


“What makes Chance interesting—or at least what makes him especially interesting—are the moves he has chosen to make in the months since those dominos began to fall, and the moves he has chosen not to make. He’s remained oddly noncommittal about his future after Acid Rap. No announcing a million-dollar, major-label deal. No self-righteous, keep-it-indie counter-announcement about rejecting those deals either. And, much to the devastation of his still-budding fan base, not even the slightest hint of a new solo full-length.”

The Fader


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I started listening to Chance the Rapper’s music sometime earlier this year, and initially, I didn’t think too much of it. I heard it mostly when my friends were playing their music, it was never my choice. Until about a week ago, I was up north at a cabin with a bunch people I didn’t know albeit, maybe three or four friends from school; nevertheless, i’ve learned it’s impossible to feel uncomfortable in Northern Michigan. It’s your typical college party, complete with about twenty people, blaring music and blinding lazer-lights, people dancing, and to really bring it altogether, a group is huddled around either side of a game of pong in the kitchen. College looks like this a lot. I end up on the border of it all, talking with one of the few people I actually know here. We somehow get on the topic of music, and he recommended I take a listen to “Surf,” by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment. He is a music student and has had a passion for music since pretty much forever, so I trust his suggestions. When he swore to me that this album would be getting award-attention, I demanded to hear it. So, he, I, and another friend of ours stepped outside to chill in his truck and listen to this “Surf,” business. He tried to explain why it would be appreciated, noting that it was a group performing a lot of spoken word poetry/rap over a full band.  It’s interesting. The first song of the album is building up as he’s explaining all of this, but then I recognize the voice. If you’ve listened to him before, you’d know Chance’s voice is incredibly unique. As I’m about to ask, he says “And yes, it’s Chance the Rapper. This is what he’s doing with his career.”

So naturally, I obsess over the album in its entirety for the next handful of weeks. I dig further back, end up listening to all three mix tapes by Chance the Rapper, and reading most every article ever written about him and the Social Experiment.  The music is incredible; and, it’s free. All of the music is made available for download on Soundcloud. You can download every Chance song right at no charge.  So like, you don’t have an excuse to not listen to it.

The story of a hopeful kid from Chicago is told over the first two releases, “10 Day” and “Acid Rap.”  The group’s release, which debuted this past May, is more of a collaboration of friends kind of celebrating life’s ups and downs.

And that! there! that is the most interesting part. You can read about it more in the article on Fader, but here it is simply: Chance the Rapper, after two hugely successful independent mixtapes, becomes more than just an up-an-coming artist, but an established one. And after incredible collaboration pieces, countless label offers, Chance releases a third album, but credits “Surf” to Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, of which he is just a member.

I love this story. So much. It goes along with my Leadership Philosophy so well:

Love:

Where you are.

What you do.

and Those who love you.

Chance the Rapper was on track to becoming a single-name celebrity. He instead brought on his best friends and still distributes his music, for free. Chance is following some other kind of leadership model that emphasizes doing what you love with those that love you for the sole reason that you love every bit of it.  He loves making music. He loves his friends. He’s a mad genius.

Please, check out the Fader article for more information. It really is an interesting story.

Here is all of his music: Chance Raps

Here’s the Fader article again (for those lazy to scroll up): The Fader

Warning: a lot of this music will cause you to feel nauseatingly happy.

Really though, read into the story, too. He’s all about doing what he loves and having a good time.

Sustainable Technologies

This entry is in response to an Article by Vivek Wadhwa for the American Society of Engineering Education’s Publication “PRISM.”

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Innovation is the product of creativity, strategy, and forward thinking.  With an abundance of innovative technology, the future seems to be coming at us exponentially faster; and the predictions are incredible.  This article by Vivek Wadhwa outlines his vision of our planet, thanks to sustainable energies.

There is little doubt that we are heading into an era of unlimited and almost free clean energy, and this has profound implications.

By observing trends in solar energy technologies in the past decade, it is clear that consumers are shifting towards solar energy.  The products being engineered today are becoming dramatically less costly to produce and more available as interest rises.  Solar energy is on track to surpass its alternatives, including that sourced in fossil fuel.  Because of this prediction, Wadhwa gives us a preview of a world running on clean, free energy:

Electric cars will become cheaper to operate than fossil-fuel-burning ones, for example. We will be able to create unlimited clean water — by boiling ocean water and condensing it. With inexpensive energy, our farmers can also grow hydroponic fruits and vegetables in vertical farms located near consumers. Imagine skyscrapers located in cities that grow food in glass buildings without the need for pesticides, and that recycle nutrients and materials to ensure there is no ecological impact.

Wadhwa foresees this all happening, with solar-powers price competition starting in 2020.

This shift is inevitable.  Activists still have to fight policy makers who are being urged to put restrictions on the production and funding on sustainable energy projects, but far less than before.  The evidence stands, inarguably suggesting that our society wants to make a change: institutions and organizations in support of renewable energy resources have become popular.  Big names are leading the brigade, like The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which encourages people to consider diverting from fossil fuels as their moral duty.

While the technology is becoming more available, cost effective, and optimal for consumer use, the actual results yielded are too unpredictable.  Wadhwa remains hopeful, however, giving us a vision of sky-scraping gardens that can feed millions.  I too hope that this technology overhaul leads to a transformed society sharing an abundance of quality resources. It is important to move the conversation in this direction to emphasize the importance of sustainable technology funding.

Mission: Transition 

Last fall, during my first semester at CMU, I participated in the Alpha Leadership Experience.  The following semester, I volunteered with the program as a facilitator (which, as it appears, is an experience I did not blog about…. oops.) Alpha has been a part of my schedule each semester so far, and it’s looking to stay that way  At the beginning of the semester, I was brought on to be a co-coordinator of the program.  In this role, I worked with Jenn Drum and Caroline Powers, two upperclassmen who have been role models to me since my first days on campus.  They were both Alpha coordinators before, but they both graduate this May, and the program would need a new coordinator in the fall.  For this reason, I understudied and collaborated with these two to pull off one of the most successful semesters of Alpha of which I’ve been a part.

From selecting and preparing facilitators to managing supplies and agendas, coordinating was an entirely different role for me.  I have become familiar with and comfortable with being the facilitator, so transitioning into more of a behind-the-scenes and strategic role took time.  I learned, though, that I fit this program’s coordination whether well, because strategic is one of my strengths.  Plus, Jenn and Caroline did an awesome job at making sure all of my questions were answered even before I could ask them.  Mission accomplished: I feel prepared to take on the Fall semester.  I feel aware and capable of the processes behind Alpha and my role in it.  Really, I’m just looking forward to the next session, because i’m so sad that it’s over!

If you’re an incoming or transfer student, Alpha is a perfect way to network with involved people on campus. If you’re an upperclassman who wants to refine their understanding of leadership or needs connections to student organizations, Alpha would be an awesome tool for that!  It’s a free, five week program through CMU’s Leadership Institute that works to build better leaders on campus and in our community.  If you’re interested in participating, or want more information, click here.