The Impact of Yoga

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline that originated in India, speculated to date back to pre-Vedic times. Yoga comprises of a disciplined method for attaining a goal, and has techniques of controlling the body and the mind. It is a great way to exercise as it increases muscle flexibility, body strength, and improves respiratory and circulatory health. Eventually, yoga was introduced to the Western countries by Indian yoga gurus, following the footsteps of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was the first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga to a western audience, and visited Europe and the United States in the 1890s for the same.

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The rapid spread of yoga throughout the Western world is news to no one, but its impact on emerging nations is something to take note of. According to numerous studies and extensive research, it has been predicted that if the emerging nations aim to obtain the wealth and technology they desire, it is likely they will eventually discover the same shocking revelation that Americans have discovered: They are still not happy.

It has often been said that Americans are depressed and stressed out. What can be deduced from this is that our careers, cars, smart phones, and even our flat-screen TVs will not ultimately make us happy, healthy, or feel like we live a meaning life.

One of the great hopes in all this is that in the past decade there has been a huge upsurge in people embarking on self-examination. People are again asking the big question, “What is this life about?” And no matter how hard we may try to deny it, the answer we are left facing is a spiritual one.

Because of this reawakening, thousands of people are accepting yoga not only as exercise, but also as an alternative to the experience of a spiritual gathering they cannot find elsewhere. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the chief difference between religion and Western-style yoga, and that is that yoga is usually offered in a non-dogmatic format, which makes it inclusive to many more people. Because of its message of healing, unity and a simpler life, yoga may be one of the great rays of hope for our future. Why? Because worldwide, yoga is being embraced primarily by college students, the upper middle class section, and businesspeople in positions of power – the very strata of society that has the power to make the changes this world so desperately needs.

There is one organization based in Worcester which is doing exemplary work in the field of yoga. Ivy Child International is a non-profit organization that provides cross-cultural health education and psychological services for children, families, and communities. It offers free yoga classes during the summer for people of all ages! The very popular event called Yoga in the Park has been running every summer for about 4 years now.

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Participants doing yoga at Fuller Family Park last year

(Source: Ivy Child International)

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People of all ages participate! Many pregnant ladies are seen doing yoga as well, since it is beneficial for health.

(Source: Ivy Child International)

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A few members of the volunteer team who helped organize the event.

(Source: Ivy Child International)

This year, Yoga in the Park will be held every Wednesday and Saturday beginning June 1st, 2016 in the Worcester Commons. On Wednesdays, the event is from 12-1pm and on Saturdays it will be form 10-11am. All the yoga classes will be uniquely themed each time to keep the interest and the momentum going. The Ivy Child team will provide free water, sell some merchandise, and host a face painting booth for kids as well.

The team also plans to distribute short surveys to access the value and demand for this event so that they can tailor future events better suited to what the community members want.

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As we all know, Clark students who stay back in Worcester for jobs and internships often need some recreational activities to keep them occupied during the summer days! Ivy Child’s Yoga in the Park is a great way to connect with nature while exercising. I hope to see some of you there!

-Nidhi

Cover photo source: Jano India

 

 

 

No space for love in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is currently suffering from, perhaps not a wave but more of a persistent flood of extremist attacks, manifesting in the form of assassinations of various free-thinking, secular or atheist bloggers, publishers, writers and journalists. While this trail of blood may be linked to a point of origin with the murder of blogger Avijit Roy in February last year, this is something that has existed under the surface of Bangladeshi society for much longer. Conservatism, the quashing of more progressive ideals, rising belief in Islamic homogeneity, and a vicious intolerance for anything that does not fit the Sunni, Bengali Muslim identity. As mysterious men, armed with machetes chip away further and further at all opposing ideologies with violence, the space for liberal and progressive ideals in my country is disappearing. The latest in this bloody spree of “divine” executions came on April 25, when gay rights activists and editor of the country’s first and only LGBT magazine, Xulhaz Mannan, along with his friend, colleague, and fellow activist, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were brutally murdered by unknown assailants, linked with larger, global Islamic terrorist outfits.

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The two murdered activists – Xulhaz Mannan (left) and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy (right)

(Source: Dhaka Tribune)

Mannan started the magazine, Roopbaan, to promote LGBT rights in Bangladesh. This by itself is an amazing achievement in such a conservative country. In the face of such disapproval and adversity, Roopbaan took off in 2014. Long an advocate in the development sector, especially working with LGBT rights, Mannan’s work went from strength to strength. In fact, on 14 April 2015, when Mannan successfully organized a “rainbow rally”, Bangladesh’s version of a pride parade, during the Bengali New Year celebrations, for a second, Bangladesh’s liberals believed again that the country was moving forward and for the LGBT community, especially the gay and lesbian communities who are legally oppressed, it was a landmark achievement – an announcement that these people not only exist, but are unafraid to stand up and be counted, as people, in Bangladeshi society. For me as well, long having been frustrated by regular news of tragedy, misfortune, oppression and intolerance, reading about the “rainbow rally”, during the New Year celebrations no less, brought me immense pride, and in one of those rare moments, I may have felt something akin to patriotism.

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Pride parade in Dhaka, 2015

(Source)

I could swell with pride for how far my country has come, and like the rest of Bangladesh’s liberals, once a proud tradition in its own right, feel hope for the future. Mannan’s murder feels like a nail on the coffin for a dream that I once thought could be reality.

This dream now seems a long way away. This year, the second “rainbow rally” was cancelled due to death threats and intimidation from a section of society that cannot bring themselves to respect (or even tolerate) other human beings. And the worst part is, this seething hate is winning. And we, Bangladesh as a nation, are allowing it to win. A Buddhist monk had his throat slit earlier this week. University professors, a profession held in such high esteem in my society, are being hacked down for no good reason. The violence is more senseless than usual. The government refuses to acknowledge that we have a terrorist crisis on our hands for fear that we start remembering that their role in how we got here. So they tell us that these murders are unrelated. That we should stay quiet. They tell us to be silent and let hate win. But for Xulhaz, for the LGBT community in my country that have now had to flee for their safety, we cannot. The pride parade is a symbol of love triumphing over everything else, and I hope, for our sake, I see it next New Years. Only then will I remember the dream that me, Xulhaz and everyone that looks forward and looked forward in my country once dreamt.

-Bareesh

Cover photo source: Wikipedia Commons

A year at Clark from my eyes

What a year has passed by!!!

The year has ended in a blink of an eye. Everything flew by so fast. For a whole year, I have learned and met a lot of people. Thanks to them, I became more attached to Clark, my second home. Clark has handed me a chance to experience so many new things. In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where I am from, all year round is summer. The weather is always hot and humid. In Clark or Worcester, every season is so different, and I can feel that every time I walk out of my dorm.

My story began in the summer when I first arrived at Clark during Orientation. The weather is nice and hot, but not as hot as Vietnam’s. My peer advisors and the people I met at Clark were so friendly; they guided me in every way I needed to get adapted to a new place, which is so far away from home. I was lost at first, and never knew where I belong to until I met some people who would later become my best friends.

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The photo was taken during the first week of Orientation

Before school started, I took a ride around Worcester with two new people I made friend with. We rode to City Hall and the area around. Worcester is old and historic, which clarifies the fact of being near Boston, one of the oldest cities in the United States that witnessed many revolutions. Worcester draws a picture of an old city on the way to innovation. There are sites under construction around, but the majority of the buildings wear an antique reddish color of the bricks. I was surprised and a little disappointed when I compared those sites with other scenes filmed at nice cities from some Hollywood movies I have watched all my life. The reality is different.

However, I did not spend much time on thinking about it as classes began. I was occupied with homework and clubs. Every start demanded effort to become used to the routine of going to classes, clubs, and even school. I made more friends, and we did many activities together. Time flew as the wind blows when fall came and went, leaving my friends and I special holidays so that we had time to understand each other more. We planned on trips together to New York and Boston on Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. The times outside school strengthened our relationships when we experienced new things together. To some of us coming from Asian countries, snow is something really special because we have never seen this before. Like children, we played with snow and built snowmen. However, somewhere in my deep soul, I felt a tingle of sadness as this time is for family gathering. I started to miss home, and friends are people I sought during those times.

With some snow showers at the beginning of the year followed by rainy days, spring has come to this land bringing new promises. Work at school became less stressful as I got used to the way Clark worked during the fall semester. I was more active in class and hung out more often with friends. I might have done more things, but to what I remember now, Spree Day was another amazing day as it marked the end of this school year. It was great to have a day off and the school turned into a recreational park with inflatable games, food, and music.

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Then, finals came and we never had much time to play until our last exam finished. It‘s too fast!

It all ended in the same place it started. I said goodbye to my friend and this year at Clark at this summer. My whole year is like a full cup filled with both joy and sadness. Everyone took a different route in the summer, but we understand that “All good things must come to an end”. However, in our heart, we know that it is just a beginning of our long distance relationship with Facebook and Skype and we will soon reunite.

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I saw my friend off when she was about to took off to the airport 

– Anh

All photos were provided by the author.

African Children’s Literature – Where is it?

I’m currently taking a directed study in the education department. The course is called Multicultural Literature. Amongst other elements, the major focus in the course is the representation of people of color (POC) in children’s picture books. As a Zimbabwean and member of the African diaspora, it has been important for me to hone in on the representation of Africa and African characters for my course assignments. Reflecting on my own childhood experience of finding representation in books while I was growing up, I knew finding such books would be a challenge.

Nappy Hair

Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron

Throughout my schooling in the Unites States, I’ve attended predominantly white institutions where I was the only POC in the majority of my classes. The books that I had access to were as lacking in diversity as my classes were. I was fortunate that my parents made a conscious effort to get books with African/African American characters and themes in them, so that I could find myself in literature. One of my favorite books used to be Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron. The beautiful dark skinned girl with a giant afro on the cover always made me smile. I used to also love Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe. It is a lovely Afro-centric spin on, “Princess and the Frog”, the western fairytale which most kids learn.

But my education and creativity were still quite white-washed. I can remember writing stories in 3rd grade and all of the characters I created were white and did things that I dreamt of doing. Thinking back on this now is disheartening, because white representation was the default that I was mostly exposed… It reminds me of a YouTube video I watched a few years back where a young African American girl had a doll with brown skin and a doll with white skin placed in front of her to choose from: The girl chose the white doll because she thought it was more beautiful than the brown skinned doll. This is the epitome of societal conditioning.

So far, my assumptions have been relatively spot-on. I went to the Worcester Public Library two weeks ago to see what I could find, and I only found five children’s picture books that somewhat fit what I was looking for. This is upsetting because in Worcester there are large populations of Ghanaian, Liberian, Kenyan, and Somalis. On the bright side, there were several books with African American characters in them as well as great selections of books with Spanish speaking characters from Mexico, Chile, Puerto Rico, and many other countries. The selection at the Worcester Public Library seems like a much more diverse one than in the libraries I went to when I was in elementary school; however, these books are far from outweighing the breadth of literature featuring White characters.

I’ve spent time searching online for children’s books with African representation. I’ve used several different databases and academic search engines and have come up with between 15 and 20 books. These are books which have been published with in the past 10 years in the U.S. This is a tiny amount compared to the thousands of children’s books that are published in the U.S. every year. After having read some of these children’s books for my course, I’ve begun to notice a lot of similarities amongst them. Many of the books are African folklore and bedtime stories. They often times teach morals. A lot of them use Africa in a historical context and refer to it in association with slavery.

In addition to my reading of children’s books, I have been reading the book, Free Within Ourselves: The Development of African American Children’s Literature by Rudine Sims Bishop. I’m about halfway done with the book. Much of the themes I’ve encountered in Sims Bishops’ book have helped set the stage for my thinking for this course and the projects I’ll be endeavoring in. Bishop discusses the origins of African and African American children’s stories as going from songs that taught of history, religion, and slave life. She also introduced the impactful African American writers before and during the Harlem Renaissance.

A writer that Bishop has introduced that has helped open up my thinking for this course so far has been W. E.B Du Bois. I’ve spent time thinking about his Brownies’ Book, and how it was initially developed to empower African Americans by representing them in literature as beautiful, intelligent, valiant people. The publication was intended to shatter the caricatured, stupid, sneaky, workhorse image White writers were continuously producing. His legacy has transcended him in the way that there are now Black authors challenging the White represented default. Jaqueline Woodson, an African American, is one of the newer authors who won the scene and has been noted for her book, Brown Girl Dreaming.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson

But in thinking about the books that I read while growing up and the books that I’ve researched, I keep asking myself: where are all the African children’s literature writers? Why aren’t there more books being produced? Have we, as African writers, moved away from this pride and responsibility of rearing conscious, confident, and self-aware African children? One of the elements I’ve begun to consider in effort to find an answer to these questions is if African and diasporic Africans are focusing too exclusively on producing supportive works for adults. One of my favorite African writers who is also involved in social justice and education is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She has brought to life the stories of Africans in the homeland and immigrant Africans. She and other authors have been so powerful for teens, young adults, and adults. But young children are missing out on these critical opportunities to find representation.

Over this semester I hope I will find some answers for these questions by further research. I’ve started contacting some of these authors who have published some of the stories that I’ve been reading in hopes of gaining their perspectives on my research. More importantly, I hope to locate more books with African/diasporic characters and donate them to schools in the area. I also hope to band together with student-run organizations in effort to get more books in schools. To top all this wonderfulness off I, myself, will be writing a children’s book telling a story that I find important and hopefully have it published. There’s a lot of awesome work ahead of me this semester. We’ll see what happens!

– Lulu

Breach of Protocol: Is the Senate Trying to De-Rail Obama’s Negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran?

If you haven’t noticed the groundswell: America is outraged.

On March 9th, 47 U.S. Republican Senators sent an open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran with an effort to bring to their attention two features of the U.S. Constitution. This letter was sent with obvious allusions to the diplomatic negotiations President Obama is currently having with Iran concerning the Republic’s access to nuclear warheads. The first feature the senators wanted to highlight was that anything the president agrees to is a “mere executive agreement”, bluntly hinting to the Iranians that any agreement they might come to with the President might in effect mean nothing without the Senate’s majority vote. The second feature the senators brought to their attention was that Obama will be leaving his office by January 2017, but that many members of the senate would remain in office for perhaps decades to come.

There are obviously many things I see wrong with this letter. First and foremost, it is an incredible over-reach by the Senate and an extreme breach of protocol. The Logan Act of 1799 forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments, and the 47 Senators who signed this letter are undoubtedly unauthorized. Secondly, it characterizes our elected leader (President Obama) as deceitful in the midst of a very high-stakes negotiation: we’re talking about nuclear bombs – weapons of mass destruction. Third, it reflects poorly on the nation as a whole. Partisanship is a part of our system, and it’s an immensely integral part our country’s government and culture. But this letter represents more than just domestic democratic differences – it represents a nation which is at war with itself.

If these senators are so clear about the constitution, why didn’t they consider one of its most fundamental principles—separation of power? Our country is based entirely on a constitutional system of checks and balances and I think it’s safe to say that this letter transcended those checks, and might in turn throw foreign negotiations off balance. This letter might have only been intended for the Iranian Government, but it has further implication—it threatens to effectively illegitimate any of Obama’s future foreign negotiations.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has already commented on the scandal, apparently seeing it as very black-and-white: “either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the Commander and Chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy. Either answer does discredit to the letter’s signatories.”

In truth, I see this issue as rather clean-cut myself; the 47 senators put their own interests before the well-being of the entire nation. The hashtag #47TRAITORS has now gone viral throughout the nation as hundreds of thousands demand that the senators involved be charged with treason. Violation of the Logan Act in itself, aside from the growing list of other offences the Senators might be charged with, is punishable under federal law with the potential of imprisonment for up to three years.

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Do you think these 47 Senators should be named traitors and charged with treason? Does anyone think the Senator’s letter was justified? We want to hear your opinion on Things That Matter!

 -Alexander Santos

http://www.cotton.senate.gov/sites/default/files/150309%20Cotton%20Open%20Letter%20to%20Iranian%20Leaders.pdf

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/file-charges-against-47-us-senators-violation-logan-act-attempting-undermine-nuclear-agreement/NKQnpJS9

 

Shop ‘Till You…Save the Rainforest?

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Along with Global Warming, I would consider the deforestation of rainforests to be the most emphasized environmental tragedies of my generation. As a grade-schooler I remember feeling so much distress at how many trees were being chopped down and how many ecosystems were being destroyed. What was most frustrating was how little I could do about it. Even now, many years later, the prospects of “saving the rainforest” seems rather out of reach.  That, however, might be changing soon.

The Rainforest Alliance (RA) has finally found a way for people all over the world to lend a helping hand, or in this case helping dollar, towards saving the rainforest. In the Rainforest Alliance’s “shop the frog” program, consumers can now look out for goods marked with the Rainforest Alliance’s frog insignia. Any product marked with this frog is certified to have some of its sale profit go towards saving the rainforest. Cool idea right? People can now buy anything from guitars to tea, all the while saving the rainforest. Follow this link to see where you can shop the frog: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/green-living/shopthefrog .

We all know it is horrible to destroy a rainforest, but do we all know why it is so horrible? Here is a quick run-down that will send you sprinting to the supermarket.

Though rainforests only cover 2% of the Earth’s surface, they contain 50% of the Earth’s plants and animals. Despite this fact, nearly every second a football field sized chunk of the rainforest is destroyed for lumber. That’s 86,400 football fields a day, or 31 million football fields a year. On top of housing half of the world’s flora and fauna, rainforests have a key role in maintaining the earth’s supply of drinking water. Rainforests are also crucial in regulating the world’s temperatures and weather patterns.

Take home message: the rainforest matters. Spread the word, folks!

 

Are Men’s Resource Centers Necessary?

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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!