Over the weekend the JMU Center for Civic Engagement took students and members of the Harrisonburg community on their Arc of Citizenship tour. The tour allowed for all those involved to witness historical sites and learn about their significance. As a learning tour, it brought forth the different social struggles and dark past of the Harrisonburg community and surrounding areas while also giving participants a better understanding of the progress and contributions made in the community. Do you think we need to have more tours like this? Or, have you ever heard of James Madison University giving tours like the Arc of Citizenship tour for the community and students?
As our student population grows exponentially, the marginalized members of the local community have begun to feel the detrimental effects of our presence. More and more off-campus housing complexes compete with local housing complexes, and this has caused rent for long-term residents to sky rocket. The majority of those who are displaced are comprised of individuals with fixed incomes or those who have minimum wage salaries, such as the elderly and those with disabilities. According to the U.S Census Bureau, the presence of college students living off-campus inflates the community’s poverty rate. Instead of accepting more students each year, as we have done in the past, we need to consider how our university’s actions will harm local residents.
The almost eradicated, extremely contagious disease measles is back and with a vengeance apparently. Over the weekend and for the past few weeks the World Health Organization and the CDC have published several findings regarding measles outbreaks. According to the WHO, there has been a 300% increase in measles cases from this time last year. Many of these cases have been in sequestered communities around the United States such as Somali community in Minnesota and the Orthodox Jewish community in New York just to name a few. Since these communities are very close knit and have constant interactions within their community the extremely contagious disease has spread throughout these communities. As of right now to try and battle the outbreaks in New York, Mayor De Blasio has issued a statement saying that the communities need to either vaccinate their children or face having to pay a fine. The CDC is keeping a close eye on these outbreaks that have spread all the way to Baltimore County, Maryland with hopes of stopping the spread. If you weren’t here, JMU has already had a scare a few years ago when it came to mumps spreading and people weren’t quite prepared for that. As a community what can we do? This is an ongoing story with cases popping up everyday and many health officials don’t see a decline in cases anytime soon and the year isn’t even half way over yet.
This week, the Supreme Court has announced its decision to decline a First Amendment case by rapper, Jamal Knox. He had been sentenced to prison for writing and recording a song titled “F*** the Police” after having been arrested in 2012. The key issue here is whether his song lyrics are a “true threat” or not. A “true threat” is speech that falls outside the protections of the First Amendment. Many other artists such as Killer Mike, Chance the Rapper, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti, Fat Joe and 21 Savage have supported him claiming that Knox’s rap song “F*** the Police” is a “political statement … that no reasonable person familiar with rap music would have interpreted as a true threat of violence.” To give some context, the lyrics of his song included the names of the two Pittsburgh officers with lyrics like, “I’ma jam this rusty knife all in his guts and chop his feet” and “Well your shift over at three and I’m gonna f*** up where you sleep.” In discussing this topic, our class came up with some good arguments. We can certainly understand how violent lyrics can be harmful or hurtful from a feminist perspective, but also this is a social justice issue. If we don’t give POC the freedom to even vocalize their frustration and we criminalize their voices, how will criminal justice reform ever take place?
A year ago former First Minister Carwyn Jones pledged to have the Welsh government obtain “true equality”. So with this pledge underway, reports are coming to see how well the Welsh government is really doing. “WEN and Oxfam Cymru have published Wales’ first feminist scorecards, a bit like its school report, to track the government’s progress on six key areas, scoring them with a traffic light system” The scorecard rates through three colors green: significant progress, amber: some progress, and red: little progress. Using the scorecard the Women’s Equality Network and Oxfam Cymru have been able to summarize that little progress has been made when it comes to ending violence against women and girls and equal pay in the work area. The Welsh government is making strides and as long as someone is keeping them accountable to their pledge, there could be a turnaround in funding and urgency so that they may achieve a feminist government. Sweden has a feminist government and according to WEN and the article, it means they are “committed to building a society in which girls and boys, women and men have the same power to shape society and their own lives, and live their lives to their full potential.” Do you think other countries should adapt this “feminist scorecard” plan? Would having their progress reported annually make countries feel as if they need to do more?
A tech company called BioCarbon Engineering has been using the flying drones to plant trees on a massive scale in Myanmar. The drones, which were developed by an ex-NASA engineer, are designed to fire off pre-germinated seed pods into the ground. Millions of acres of degraded landscapes can be brought back to life thanks to these drones. Over the course of the last seven years, Worldview has worked with Myanmar communities to plant over 6 million trees – but now with the help of the drones, they hope to plant another 4 million trees by the end of the year. Drone planting is quicker and cheaper than planting by hand, with this technology forests that were once depleted of their natural resources can once again thrive! Personally, I believe that it is somewhat rare for tech companies to hold the same values as BioCarbon Engineering. For them to create such a powerful tool, to complete such a simple task on such a tremendous scale is quite innovative and amazing. There is still so much more work that needs to be done in terms of creating a greener environment, but I feel as though companies are recognizing the importance of being sustainable.
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