Earth Day 2014: something for us all

22 Apr

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Earth Day on the 22nd of April is the day in the calendar year where we all band together to call for support in the protection of the environment. Each year it is celebrated in over 190 countries worldwide, and is coordinated by Earth Day Network. Every year people plant trees, collect garbage, use less energy, and even sign many petitions.

Chosen to be on the 22nd because it fell during the optimum week for colleges (in between spring breaks and exams), and officially renamed as International Mother Earth Day by the UN in 2009, it truly is a global force. Originally only a single day, many places now celebrate an Earth Week, in appreciation of our beautiful planet.

But how did it all begin?

Over 40 years ago, in 1970, the first Earth Day was held as a demonstration in the USA. With over 20 million people taking to public places for sustainability and environmental awareness, it was extremely successful. The brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson (at the time), following the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, the movement was largely inspired by the anti-Vietnam war movement.

 After announcing his plan to the national media, and convincing Congressman Pete McCloskey to co-chair, the event became one of the few causes to garner support from both Democrats and Republicans. It was so successful that it directly led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

 In 1990, again, Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, began to organize a widespread campaign; this time global. Earth Day 1990, mobilized 200 million people worldwide in 141 countries and paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit.

It was at the turn of the millennium, for Earth Day 2000, that environmental organizations banded together to create sustainable projects and incorporate the ongoing grassroots activism to the already established event. It became more than people demonstrating on a single day of the year; it shifted into being a day of celebration of all that has been done for the planet’s environment, as well as call for more decisive action on matters. 

 Since then, the awareness for climate change and global warming, as well as sustainability and environment protection has grown and become a more important point on all the world’s agenda.

Moving forward

As we participate in our environmental causes today, and for the rest of this week, it is a great reminder that we should appreciate the beauty of the Earth, and life around us – not only now, but always.

Are Men’s Resource Centers Necessary?

21 Apr

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A subject that recently piqued my interest is the new movement at Clark University to add a men’s resource center on campus. Recently, on April 14th, there was a forum open to all students who wished to learn more about this new resource center, ask questions, or voice their opinions. This forum was led by Clark faculty member Dr. Michael E. Addis whose research for the past 17 years has largely been focused on masculinity and men’s mental health.

Dr. Addis opened discussion explaining that it was the University Administration who had approached him for his take on how to solve several on-campus issues concerning male students such as high attrition, excessive partying, and lack of use of counseling services. Since the University’s request, Addis has been constructing his proposal for a men’s resource center on his own time while receiving absolutely nothing in return. Despite being only the volunteer harbinger, Dr. Addis was riddled with accusatory questions and comments such as “Why a men’s and not a women’s resource center”, “Why are we not considering the LGBTQ community”, “Why are we only hearing about this now?” – All questions that could be much better answered by Clark University administrators.

A male student in attendance made the point that perhaps the fact that most men aren’t using on-campus counseling service is reason enough for the addition of a men’s resource center. In response Michael Addis clarified that a new men’s resource center would not be a counseling center, but instead a well of knowledge containing anything from movies to modern day research regarding masculinity.

This resource center would mirror the many attempts to support male students at schools across the country, as male collegiate performance has become an increasingly widespread issue. Between 1947 and 2005 male college enrollment has plummeted from 71% to 43%. Between the years of 2005 and 2002 enrollment rates indicated that an incoming freshmen class often lost around 4% of their male population by the time graduation rolled around (Conger et. al, 2008). I could keep throwing statistics out there, but it seems there is plenty of evidence indicating that males are simply not flourishing in college anymore. What is more concerning is how little known these facts are- and how little has been done to remedy this rather overlooked problem.

Addis believes that having resource centers for men would encourage male students to “acknowledge their vulnerability and develop a respect for each other and oneself.” Though a clear step in the right direction, I also believe other on-campus populations (such as the female and LGBTQ communities) deserve a specialized support system as well. I don’t think it unlikely that in the near future Clark University will start investigating how to better support other communities on campus, but Michael Addis explained that since there is always so much going on at the University “Clark is a limited resource kind of place.”

It was made abundantly clear through Addis’ forum that in order for changes to happen, or for projects to come to fruition, there needs to be student and faculty support. What do you think about specialized resource centers? Raise your voices and start talking about things that matter!

 

Easter: An Intercultural Medley of a Holiday

18 Apr

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Though Easter is commonly associated in the United States as a secular holiday of decorated eggs and chocolate rabbits, its meaning and significance around the world greatly vary. This day of celebration has been rooted in a variety of human cultures as early as the second century; it is thought to be descended from an ancient pagan festival which celebrated the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of fertility and spring, Eostre. Legend has it that the Goddess Eostre consorted with a hare and some scholars believe this fable serves as history’s first reference to rabbits during this springtime holiday. 

Many years later Easter is now well known for representing Christianity’s most important holiday, commemorating Jesus’s resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven. In a forty day period before Easter Sunday named “Lent,” Christians will sacrifice something in honor of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for his people. In Judaism, the celebration of Passover occurs around the same time of year as Easter.  During this time, Jews gather to pay homage to the Israelites’ flight from slavery in Egypt.  The highlight of Passover is the Seder, observed on each of the first two nights of the holiday. The Seder is a fifteen-step family-oriented tradition and ritual-packed feast.  Although eggs are a part of the traditional Seder feast, their significance is quite different from the Easter egg.

Eggs became a world-wide Easter tradition largely due to the Christian church banning certain foods (such as eggs) during Lent, the 40 day religious season of sacrifice which precedes Easter Sunday. After going over a month without eating eggs it became a special treat to enjoy them on Easter. This excitement for eggs fed one of Easter’s oldest and most extravagant traditions, Easter egg decorating. Though at first eggs were only decorated by dye, Russian Royalty and high society of the 19th century took this activity to the next level and crafted jewel-encrusted eggs as Easter gifts!

Over the years separate cultures have added their own twist onto this diverse holiday, presenting several interesting differences in their respective Easter traditions. For example in Switzerland the Easter bunny is replaced with a Cuckoo who flies around and delivers eggs, while in varying parts of Germany it is thought that a fox, rooster or stork would do the job.

Nowadays many celebrate Easter simply for the fun of it. With only Halloween having greater candy sales, every Easter over 90 million chocolate bunnies and 16 billion jellybeans are consumed all over the world. From its ancient religious implications to its popular customs, Easter has become one of the world’s most widely celebrated holidays!

Happy Easter! – OIA Bloggers 

That time of year: GALA 2014

16 Apr

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GALA! Since its birth 12 years ago, every Clarkie has probably attended at least one International Gala during their four years at Clark. Gala, International Students Association’s flagship event, is probably the most-awaited event for many internationals at Clark. Halfway through February, choreographers start registering their countries and all of March just seems like a blur of rehearsals and preparations for both performers and ISA.

Gala just seems to get bigger and better each year and Gala 2014 was no exception! With over 30 countries representing themselves through dance, music and glamorous native costumes, Gala 2014 ended with a blast!

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Japan, last year’s ending performance, kicked off the show this year while India closed the first half with its amazing Bhangra! With classical-fusion from Bangladesh, tango from Argentina, Persian influenced dances by Iran and an acapella performance by our very own Clark Bars the show was ended by the fabulous dance by Sri Lanka! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_bXUac3k3E

The theme for Gala 2014 was ‘share the moment’ and the show truly left some very beautiful moments that are now embedded in social media for as long as we have facebook and instagram. Dulara De Alwis’, who was one of the hosts, “first let me take a selfie” dialogue was probably one of the many highlights of the night.

Each year ISA, Gala volunteers and over three hundred performers get together and try to bring-to-life and celebrate Clark’s diversity. All the hard work devoted to make these performances absolutely perfect, pays off when you are on stage and you can hear applause take over the Kneller during and after each performance! 

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When I was asked to write about this year’s Gala, I was excited and yet out of words. How does one accurately describe something that is so empowering, so full of emotions and excitement? Gala for me isn’t just a three hour long show. It’s the pumped up aura surrounding Clark three weeks before Gala, the anxious hell week, that overwhelming minute filled with pride when you carry your flag across the stage at the end of the show! Gala for me, whether I am performing or not, is an amalgam of feelings. An expectation of the beautiful memories I will make that will stay with me for years to come. Gala 2014 met all those expectations and more, making people want to come back for more next year. And you know what? It just keeps getting better each year!

-Suaida Firoze 

Great Minds: Leonardo da Vinci

15 Apr

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This April 15th marks Leonardo Da Vinci’s 562nd birthday. This well-known jack of all trades is still to this day characterized as one of the humanity’s greatest geniuses in regard to his diverse work in the arts and sciences. Leonardo is well known for his artwork having created timeless treasures such as the Mona Lisa and Madonna of the Rocks – however he was also a well accomplished architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, writer, and inventor (too name only a few of his studies). Here are a couple of fun facts about this great man you might not have known about:

  • Leonardo Da Vinci was a vegetarian due to his love of animals! This was very unusual in the fifteenth century.
  • Leonardo would wear pink in order to make his complexion look fresh.
  • The majority of Leonardo’s work was either unfinished or destroyed- he was a very critical man.
  • Leo was an illegitimate son of Florentine notary and peasant- for this reason he never received a formal education. 
  • Leonardo never married or had children.
  • Da Vinci was fascinated with flight as evidenced by his many aerial inventions. He would often catch birds simply for the enjoyment of releasing them and watching them fly away.

We have come a long way since the Renaissance, but it is often argued that this period of time propelled humanity into its modern-technical age. Now, over 500 years later, I wonder when our next renaissance will ensue, who our next Leonardo will be, or if anyone will ever again make a mark on this world as he once did.  

Once In a Lifetime: Advocacy Day

12 Apr

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About a month ago I got an email informing that I had been selected to attended the Advocacy Day conference, organized by NAFSA in Washington D.C. I couldn’t wait to go the conference, advocating for the laws and things I believe in.

The conference was held from March 18-19 in the Doubletree Hotel in Washington D.C. with over 200 attendees representing 38 states. The Massachusetts contingent was the largest contingent present.

The first day of the conference concentrated mainly on skill building, how to advocate for your cause when you are in the presence of some the most powerful people in the American Politics or in any country in general. There were various speakers that paid attention to different aspects of advocating -from introductions to how to keep the conversation going.

A lot of emphasis was put on how to build a connection with the person you are talking to and are trying to convince for your cause. We had the opportunity of meeting staff member from other universities and students from all over the United States. There weren’t a lot of students present but I was informed that the conference has seen a steady rise in the number of student attendees over the years.

On our first day in Washington D.C. we were privileged enough to receive a private tour of The Capitol from a staff member from a New Hampshire congresswoman. It was an amazing first time experience; it was astonishing to see the amount of history attached to a building.

For me personally, the second day was one of the best experiences I have had. The Massachusetts contingent had the opportunity of meeting with highest staff members of the two Massachusetts senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. We talked about the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act and the new immigration bill. We got to hear both sides of the story, Democratic and Republican. We also went to Congressman Jim McGovern’s office as a small group and had a great productive conversation with his staff member. Most officials were unavailable as it was recess time.

This was an amazing opportunity to experience and interact with people who have been working in this field for so long and have so much to share. We were a contingent of 4 undergraduate students; Eliana Hadjeandreou, Danielle Strandson and Oscar Zapata. Mariana Davila, who is a fifth year student currently living in D.C. joined us for the conference. The great Clark staff members, Patricia Doherty and Constance Whitehead-Hanks, who played a key in making this trip so successful, also accompanied us. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity; the city, the people, and the power. Everything about this trip was memorable; hopefully I will have the opportunity to go on a trip like this in the near future.

- Radhika Sharma

The Advocacy Day group will be presenting on the experience on Tuesday, April 15 at 4:00 PM  – Second Floor Dana Commons – Clark University

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Institutionalized Racism Unnoticed

8 Apr

The world of fashion and beauty is incredibly tough and biased – cutthroat and highly opinionated. Models seem to conform to a strict set of guidelines that are set by the industry; rarely do outsiders make it big. From their often-unrealistic notions of what the ideal body type is, it is not difficult to see that the industry is in serious need of expanding their vision.

Roughly 20% of models are women of color. For this, designers should be also held accountable, as they choose who models their shows. According to Annie Walshaw, a model booker, designers have a certain ‘look’ in mind when they hire models. The implications of this are disconcerting: white models are considered dainty and pretty, whilst darker models are exotic and ‘edgy’ (only able to pull of certain looks – most likely tribal). It seems hard to believe that this still occurs today.

Instead of highlighting these issues, however, the media, and Hollywood, only seem to play into the beauty industry’s hands. Very rarely do we even see a leading lady of color.

That is why when Lupita Nyong’o – though not playing a leading lady – emerged, many were overjoyed to find that the media immediately fell in love with the girl-who-seems-to-do-no-wrong. An amazing actress (her performance in 12 years a Slave proving it), smart, and statuesque, it’s no mystery why they did. Lupita Nyong’o, a grounded and elegant lady, who is able to pull off any designer’s look, certainly has a wonderful way with words.

The most impressing thing about her – more so than her Oscar – has to be her acceptance speech for Best Breakthrough Performance at the Essence Magazine awards. Instead of launching into a typical acceptance speech, she spoke about her experience with beauty, being dark-skinned, in response to a letter she received from a young girl.

The beauty industry is not accommodating to those of a darker skin tone, with many companies encouraging the idea that ‘lighter is better’. Few makeup and skin companies even have a decent selection of products for dark skin. Instead, they advertise harmful skin-bleaching products. This in itself is refined racism; together with the media, they collectively brainwash people into thinking that they need to look a certain way – that it’s the only way to be beautiful and appreciated.

However, her message was an even deeper one, one that undermines a lot of what the beauty industry has to say:

“What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul… And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

People come in all colors and sizes, and the beauty sector needs to wake up and realize that they need to become representative. Color is not ugly, but rather, it is marvelously beautiful.

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