Highlights from the 2015 VMAs

(From The Campus Lantern – September 3rd, 2015)

First things first, when I say highlights from the 2015 VMA’s, I feel like I should touch upon one of the reoccurring themes of the night: marijuana. Miley hosted, so you know there was going to be some weed references. But there were more than just a few. She mentioned the ganj every time she came on stage. One of her skits even included her eating a “special” brownie with Snoop Dogg – the popstar got so high that the rapper turned into her pet pig. For a country that doesn’t want to legalize it, we really do love talking about how awesome weed is in the media. Anyway, onto the happenings of the show.

Taylor Swift took home Video of the Year for her lady-filled music video “Bad Blood.” She also won Female Video of the Year for “Blank Space” and premiered her new video for “Wildest Dreams”. Other notable award winners included Fetty Wap for Best New Artist and Nicki’s “Anaconda” for Best Hip Hop Video.

The VMAs are supposed to be about the awards, but the main focus of the night was the performances. The night started off with a jaw-dropping performance by Nicki Minaj, who donned a glorious, feathery red dress. After performing the beat-heavy “Trini Dem Girls,” she transitioned into “The Night is Still Young.” Taylor Swift came onto stage to join the performance and I will admit that tears came to my eyes when the two ended with a duet of “Bad Blood.” The girl power was serious, y’all.

Later on in the show, Justin Bieber performed on-stage for the first time in two years. Other performances included Demi Lovato, Pharrel, and Tori Kelly. The night closed with an interesting hip hop collaboration between Twenty One Pilots and A$AP Rocky.

Every time Miley came out on stage throughout the night, she had a different outfit on. The outfits ranged anywhere from a rectangle rainbow box to a bunch of different colored circles taped onto her body. One look that stayed consistent throughout the night was the dreads in her hair. Miley is notorious for appropriating black culture, and her VMA hairstyle proved that she still hasn’t learned. At one point in the night, Nicki called Miley out for saying that she should keep quiet on black women’s issues. Instead of admitting that she messed up, Miley blamed the whole thing on the corruption of the media.

Other awareness-raising events at the VMAs included an award for Video With A Social Message, which Big Sean won for “One Man Can Change The World.” When Kanye took the stage to accept his Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, he made a long, ironic speech about how unimportant award shows are. While his speech was pretty confusing, he talked a lot about the corruption of the media and how important it is to “listen to the kids.” The Black Lives Matter movement was briefly mentioned at the show, but it was ultimately turned into a joke by Rebel Wilson. She had a skit in which she mentioned how she knew many people have had it with police, but she couldn’t stand “police strippers.” She donned a shirt that read “F*ck tha Stripper Police,” and went on to make jokes about police violence.

We all know the VMAs aren’t the most serious award ceremony of the year. However, many young people such as myself do tune in each year. Cultural appropriation? Jokes about institutional racism? Hopefully next year the VMAs can do better.

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T-Pain Visits Eastern for the 2015 Spring Concert

(From The Campus Lantern – April 30th, 2015)

On Sunday, April 26, CAB hosted their annual Spring Concert featuring T-Pain with special guest DJ Earworm. Doors opened at 6:00 pm, and the show kicked off at 7:00 pm. DJ Earworm started the show playing remixes to popular songs by artists such as Beyoncé, the Notorious B.I.G., and Lil Jon. The crowd had a positive reaction to the special guest; hands were in the air the whole set, and students were dancing to the beat of the songs.

After DJ Earworm, T-Pain’s entourage came onto stage and got the crowd pumped up for the featured artist. Finally, T-Pain himself came on stage and the show really started. The rapper started off with his 2011 hit “Booty Wurk.” Throughout the night, he continued to play hits such as “I’m In Love With a Stripper” and “Buy U a Drank.” He also played some songs that he was featured on, such as “Kiss Kiss” by Chris Brown.

To the crowd’s surprise, the rapper also covered artists such as Queen and Lorde at the show. Throughout T-Pain’s set, lights flashed and the crowd danced and sang along to the songs. T-Pain and his entourage wore Eastern t-shirts on stage, which gave the concert an atmosphere of Eastern pride.

Hundreds of Eastern students attended the concert. It was another great success and there is no doubt that the whole student body is looking forward to the concert that will take place next fall.

Eastern Professor Previews Book

(From The Campus Lantern – April 30th, 2015)

On Wednesday, April 8, Dr. Allison Speicher, Assistant Professor of the English Department, held an informational session as part of the Author Series @ Smith Library about her book entitled “Schooling Readers: Reading Common Schools in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction,” forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press. The book focuses on four main themes in reform fiction: teachers adopting children, violence against teachers, spelling bees and school exhibitions, and school romance. In the session, Dr. Speicher discussed the latter theme.

She noted that through her research she found that more than 70 out of the 125 stories that she discovered featured romance plots. There were only four examples of schoolmistresses marrying schoolboys; instead, a majority of the plots included schoolmasters marrying schoolgirls. This may have been because of the fact that in the nineteenth century more girls were going to school than ever before. But it also raises the question of whether schools were meant to educate girls intellectually or to prepare them for wifehood and motherhood.

“Schooling Readers” explores this question and many more. Once the book is released in the fall of 2016, it will be available in the Smith Library.

Dr. Speicher received her Ph.D. in English, with a specialty in nineteenth-century American literature, from Indiana University Bloomington. At Indiana University, she taught a range of courses, including courses on tomboys and single women. At Eastern, she teaches American and children’s literature, drawing on her experiences working at an inner-city high school to help prepare future educators. She is wrapping up this semester with her College Writing and Children’s Literature classes, as well as a special topic English and Women’s Studies cross-listed class, the Golden Age of American Tomboy. Next semester, Dr. Speicher will teach Literary Analysis, Survey of American Literature, and the Nineteenth-Century American Short Story.

I Admit, I Messed Up: A Tale of Appropriation

(From The Campus Lantern – April 9th, 2015)

As I look down at my left hand right now, I see brown, thick-lined drawings of flowers. I may be exaggerating, but I feel a slight pang of shame. Why do I, a white woman, feel guilty that I’ve got henna on my hand? What’s the big deal?

I got the henna done at a UROC event last Friday by another white woman. I flipped through a paper booklet until I found a cute design that I thought I’d like to have on my hand for two weeks. I pushed the doubtful thoughts out of my head and focused on how cultured and hip I’d look with henna.

I pushed out the thoughts in my head that pointed out that henna is a practice historically used by poor folks in areas like Pakistan, India, and Africa to cool off their bodies in hot weather. I pretended that I didn’t know that henna is a cultural tradition common in weddings, birthdays, and other meaningful celebrations.

Some people argue that it is a positive thing that henna has become to popular in western culture. They see henna as a happy, beautiful tradition that should be embraced by every race and culture.

Then why do I feel guilty for indulging in henna?

Well, I think I just answered my own question.

It doesn’t mean anything to me. I just got it because I thought it looked nice. I didn’t get it for any sort of significant occasion.

I feel guilty because I appropriated something that has been a historically meaningful practice, and instead used it for my own personal, selfish aesthetic gain. I pushed out my negative thoughts when I was initially getting the henna and instead focused on how “cool” I would look.

There is a difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. If I were at an Indian festival celebrating culture and I got henna done, then I might have been taking part in cultural appreciation. Instead I got a meaningless “cute” design just because I wanted to, therefore appropriating the cultural significance of henna.

The big question here is, is it alright for white people to get henna? Maybe. In certain situations. Just try to think critically and with cultural sensitivity before you do. My advice (that I didn’t take, but will follow henceforth): if you’re having second thoughts, just don’t do it.

The Bandana Project at Eastern

(From The Campus Lantern – April 9th, 2015)

Eastern’s Women’s Center hosted the Bandana Project on Thursday, March 26th. As part of the project, students designed bandanas in support of migrant farmworker women who face threats such as sexual violence and exploitation. These women face discrimination on the farms where they are working to support their families. Many women fear losing their jobs, deportation, and separation from their children. Participants in the Bandana Project included members from student clubs such as the Organization of Latin American Students, MALES, and the National Organization for Women.

“The Bandana Project was launched by Esperanza: The Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center in June of 2007 as a part of its national initiative to end workplace sexual violence against farmworker women. In solidarity, farmworker community members, advocates and other individuals decorate white bandanas with words of encouragement, motivating statements, inspirational pictures and art. These bandanas are then hung in a public place to raise awareness about this serious problem” (www.adph.org).

Erika Sanchez, Women’s Center Ambassador, brought the Bandana Project to Eastern.

“These women’s stories are vital. They deserve the right to work in safe spaces, make enough money to feed their children, and not live in fear,” Sanchez says, “I hope the Bandana Project becomes an annual event at Eastern. I carry these women and their experiences in my heart.”

Sanchez is a senior completing her capstone work in Women’s and Gender Studies under the guidance of Professor Joan Meznar on the analysis of the contributions of undocumented Mexican workers.

At Eastern, the bandanas are currently displayed in the stairwell in the Student Center. Empowering sayings such as “Raise Women’s Voices,” “Women’s Rights Matter,” and “Sí, Se Puede” are written across the bandanas.

Happening Now: SGA Spring 2015 Elections

(From The Campus Lantern – April 9th, 2015)

Elections for Eastern’s Student Government Association (SGA) are taking place now through April 22. SGA is looking for committed, professional, and analytical students to join the senate. It is required that SGA senators have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Any class standing, both underclassmen and upperclassmen, can run for SGA. This year, in order to best represent Eastern and to diversify the mentalities that contribute to the senate, SGA wants to reach areas of campus that may never have considered running for senate positions before.

SGA serves as the voice for all students on campus and prides itself in being an inclusive and welcoming group. Executive board officers are elected annually by the student body, and all senators must run for re-election through the student body each academic year.

Each SGA senator is required to attend general board meetings on Mondays at 3:00 PM. Members are allowed to leave for classes at 4:00 PM if need be. Senators must also complete two office hours in the SGA Suite, located in the lower level of the Student Center. These office hours are not meant to be a burden to the senator, but instead serve as a way to connect with other students who may be in the SGA Suite.

In addition, each senator is required to serve on a standing committee as well as an external committee where they will interact with administrators and faculty. Standing committees are located within SGA, and include Internal (which deals with SGA affairs, such as coordinating teambuilding programs), Student Issues (which deals with solving concerns that affect the student body, such as food in the dining hall or keeping tuition costs down), Public Relations (which deals with promoting SGA and the other clubs and organizations on campus), and Budget and Management (which deals with managing the budgets of the clubs and organizations at Eastern). Examples of external committees include, but are not limited to, the Curriculum Committee, the First Year Program Committee, and Support Services Committee.

There will be fourteen open senator positions this round of elections. Ten senator positions are held open for fall elections to reserve spots for incoming freshmen and transfer students, as well as upperclassmen who would like to run. Students have until April 12 at 11:59 PM to fill out applications to be a part of SGA. Applicants must include a short personal statement explaining why they would best represent Eastern’s student body and a professional picture. The application can be found online at www1.easternct.edu/studentactivities/sga/elections.

Applicants will be nominated at the April 13 SGA meeting. Once nominated, applicants can start the campaigning process to gain votes. The official campaigning period will take place from the day of nominations through April 22. Students running for SGA must follow a set of campaign conduct guidelines, including only posting flyers and promotional material on authorized bulletin boards on campus and not being derogatory towards any other candidate, among other guidelines. Applicants will be emailed the complete list of campaign guidelines once their application is submitted.

The voting period will take place online from April 20 through April 22. Winners will be determined by majority vote. If there are no irregularities after 72 hours of the winners being determined and notified, the elections will be official and valid. Any violations, including not following the campaign guidelines, will be investigated by members of the SGA Elections Committee at their discretion.

“SGA offers an incredible opportunity for individuals to develop as informed leaders at Eastern, members of SGA have the ability to make significant impacts on the culture of our campus,” stated Matthew Hicks, the current President of SGA.

If you have any more questions about SGA, the elections process, or if you just have comments about Eastern in general, SGA can be reached by email at SGA@my.easternct.edu. SGA can be found on Twitter and Instagram with the username @SGAEastern, and on Facebook at “Eastern SGA.” Senators are usually located in the SGA Suite at all times of day, so students can stop by to talk about SGA anytime.

SGA meetings are Mondays at 3:00 PM in room 107 of the Student Center. Students are welcome to come to meetings to share their voice with the senate and to ask any questions they may have.

Good luck to all students who will be running this election period! Students who are not running: Be on the lookout for campaign posters and be sure to check your email and vote to pick your student body representatives between April 20 and April 22!

Questions of Police Brutality in New Haven

(From The Campus Lantern – March 26, 2015)

On Saturday, March 15, the annual New Haven Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was held in the city. At one point during the parade, a white police officer slammed a black 15-year-old girl down to the ground, causing her minor facial injuries. Since the incident, the 15-year-old girl has missed school due to the swelling and cuts on her face and a fractured shoulder (www.newhavenindependent.org). A video of the incident was posted two days after, and quickly went viral.

The incident started at the parade near the Buffalo Wild Wings on Church Street. The 15-year-old girl was in the restaurant when she ran into an 18-year-old girl that she had been having a feud with for some time.  A fight broke out between the two girls and the police arrived on the scene within minutes.  The 15-year-old girl was brought outside and that is when she was slammed on the ground, as was caught on the video (www.newhavenindependent.org).

The girl was found to have had a knife, but her mother claimed that she carried it around to protect herself from the older girl “because she was scared for her safety.”  She was charged with carrying a dangerous weapon, third-degree assault, breach of peace, and interfering with an officer (www.newhavenindependent.org).

A statement has been issued by the city confirming that it has opened the investigation.  Other details have been withheld, including the name of the officer involved (www.newhavenindependent.org).

Protests took place outside the New Haven Police Department on Monday, March 23, in response to these events.  One of the protestors stated that the protests were not about race, but rather about the lack of respect from police officers. On the contrary, another protestor stated her belief that the police officers would not have reacted so violently if the girl were a Yale student. She noted that this was not the first youth of color in New Haven who has faced violent treatment (www.yaledailynews.com).

There is debate about whether this incident should be considered an instance of racially-driven police brutality.  However, many can agree that the girl’s minor age should surely be taken into account when analyzing the case.