“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf” Highlighting Black Women’s Experiences

By: Rachel Yuan

Online Section Writer

This weekend, the Black Theatrical Ensemble held their fall semester performance in the Fine Arts Theater. The Black Theatrical Ensemble allows students to participate in and learn all aspects of putting on a production, from acting to behind-the-scenes work. They strive to showcase Afro-centric theater, by performing works by black writers or about the African-American experience.

This semester, they performed Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf,” a choreopoem that combines a series of poetic monologues, music and dance movement. The piece follows the stories of seven nameless African-American women, identified by the colors of their skirts. The rainbow created by the Lady in Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Brown and Purple dances across the stage as emotional monologues detail the struggles specific to women, especially women of color.

Topics of unrequited love, abortion, rape, domestic violence and simply growing up and existing as a “colored girl” are broached in this performance. Not a conventionally formatted play, the women rotate in the telling of different, unconnected experiences of black women. In many cases, these utterly relatable stories were met with mumbles of agreement from the audience. Often, the intensely emotional and painful monologues left the audience holding back tears.

One scene in particular that was received with a lot of audience agreement had all of the women saying that their love was “too delicate/sanctimonious/beautiful to have thrown back in my face.” In a talkback with the cast after the performance, many audience and cast members agreed that most women can relate to giving their love to someone who did not deserve it.

In an especially electric moment, the Lady in Green performed “Somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff.” The monologue repeats this line over and over to emphasize her anger at a man for almost taking a piece of her identity away from her.

The final, and probably most painful, story is told by the Woman in Red. She details an abusive relationship, where a woman refuses to marry the father of her two children, so he drops the children out of a fifth story window.

The piece culminates in a song with all the women coming together, singing “I found god in myself / and I loved her fiercely.” After all of the hardships and grief presented in the preceding poems, the women begin “moving to the ends of their own rainbows,” presenting their resilience to hopefully inspire an audience of women of color to keep their strength throughout the oppressions that life will throw at them.

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Books Finding Their Way to Athenians

By: Caitlyn Richtman

Editor-In-Chief

On a chilly November day, a young child skipped down Pulaski Street in Athens, his pudgy hand clutching his mother’s. He broke away from his mom when he spotted a small, red and white wooden box shingled with roof tiles standing tall in a Pulaski resident’s front yard. The child ran up to the box, opened it with a creak and snatched a children’s book out of it before shutting the box again and hurrying to catch up with his mother who had stopped to wait for him a few paces ahead. The boy grabbed his mother’s hand again while looking down at the prize the box had just given him and he continued to skip down the street towards downtown Athens.

The box that the little boy ran up to is one of Athens’ Little Free Libraries which are structures that have been built by the community to encourage Athens residents to read. Little Free Libraries are wooden boxes that are filled with books which anyone can freely take. There are over a dozen of these libraries scattered throughout the Athens area.

The book distribution points are part of a national trend. The Little Free Library project was started by Todd Bol in 2009 when he built a wooden box filled with books to put outside of his home in Wisconsin. Bol wanted to give his community access to free books 24 hours a day. The Little Free Libraries run on the hope that everyone who takes a book will one day come back and replace the book with a new one.

A major portion of the Little Free Libraries in Athens were built by the 2013 LEAD class, a year-long leadership program of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. The 2013 LEAD class, mainly referred to as READ Athens after choosing to focus on literacy in Athens, built five libraries for the Athens community.

“It was a self-sustaining project, and the community really did adopt them,” Sarah Freeman, a member of READ Athens, told Ampersand Magazine in 2016.

Books Coming to Schools

The Athens community goes above and beyond to promote reading in Athens, mainly for children. Organizations such as Books for Keeps strive to promote reading and prevent “summer slide” for Athens children. Summer slide is when children leave school for summer vacation and they lose their reading skills because they don’t have access to books. Summer slide is more prevalent in low-income communities such as Athens-Clarke County, according to a study done at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, 41.6 percent of children living in Athens-Clarke County were living in poverty.

Books for Keeps was started in 2009 by Athens resident, Melaney Smith, after she heard about a second-grade student not looking forward to summer vacation because she had no books at home. After finding research that linked third grade reading levels to high school graduation rates, Books for Keeps was officially launched as a nonprofit in Athens in 2011.

“When students don’t have books to read during the summer, they’re at risk for falling behind,” said Leslie Hale, the executive director for Books for Keeps. “It’s really a big contributor to the achievement gap, driving a wedge between students who have access and students who don’t have access.”

According to Hale, Books for Keeps serves 15 elementary schools and 6,000 students. For this summer, 72,000 books that have been gathered throughout the school year will be given out over the course of one month. Each child gets 12 books to hold them over throughout the summer months.

“Once we start to give away the books in the schools in late April, I will be in the schools almost every single day,” Hale said.

Hale, the rest of the Books for Keeps staff and volunteers will work tirelessly during the giveaway month to ensure every child gets their books. According to Hale, there are “innumerable” improvements to children’s lives through books.

“If children can change the notion of reading from something they have to do into something they want to do,” Hale said. “When they’re assigned something later that they have to read, they are going to approach it with more of a sense of possibility than as a burden.”

Books Hit The Road 

Cameron Brooks is about to wrap up his 10th year as a third-grade teacher at Chase Street Elementary School, a Title I school in Athens. Brooks is no stranger to summer slide and calls it a “perennial problem.”

After reading “That Book Woman” by Heather Henson and “Richard Wright and the Library Card” by William Miller to his class over the years, two books that depict people who have difficulty procuring literature, an idea popped into Brooks’ head.

In response to the “guilt” he felt for holding hundreds of books hostage in his classroom that his students could be reading over the summer, Brooks came up with the idea for what he calls the “Bibliobike.” The Bibliobike is a bike that has a trailer filled with books attached to the back of it which Brooks can ride around to students’ houses during the summer- a sort of mobile library.

On March 4, Brooks started a GoFundMe page to raise the almost $6,000 he would need to complete this project. After posting a video explaining the Bibliobike to the page, Brooks raised the $6,000 in 24 hours.

Brooks recognizes that the Bibliobike could not happen without the “extraordinarily supportive” Athens community who have been there in many different aspects of his teaching not just this specific project.

Brooks started to teach for the “greater good,” and he believes that giving children books over the summer with the Bibliobike can be a part of the good that he is trying to put into the world.

“All subjects build upon a foundation of literacy,” Brooks said. “But more importantly, literature provides a scaffold for skills that are more difficult to quantify than reading, writing or math. Soft skills such as empathy, critical thinking and social emotional learning often begin with a book.”

Books Changing Lives

According to the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 93 million adults in America read at or below the basic level needed to successfully contribute to society.

For University of Georgia English major, Ginny Morris, reading was an important part of growing into the person she is today.

According to Morris, giving children the opportunity to read and instilling a love of of reading at a young age is an important step to producing literate adults.

“It started out with my mom pushing me towards books. I don’t quite think she realized what she was doing. In high school, I realized how powerful and moving reading can be. My English teacher in high school taught me that books can teach us what it means to be human,” Morris said.

Morris remembers her summers being filled with books and enjoying investing more of her time in the world of books.

“Reading has advanced my ability to critically think,” Morris said.

Books Finding New Homes

In a world muddled with technology which preaches it is the most convenient way to consume books, Avid Bookshop, a local Athens favorite, is here to convince you otherwise.

“Print is not dead. I get personally offended when people say that. I’m tired of that narrative and it’s bullsh*t,” Rachel Watkins said, the events director at Avid Bookshop.

At least in Athens, print is very much not dead thanks to Avid. A hallmark of Prince Avenue since 2011, Avid opened a second location at Five Points in November 2016.

According to Rachel Kaplan, the events assistant at Avid Bookshop, bookstores will always be around because nothing beats “reading a book in the flesh.”

Along with providing a location for Athens residents to buy books, Avid also hosts author events, book clubs, children story times, culinary events and poetry events to name a few.

Avid strives to support the community that supports them which includes planning events for children in Athens.

“If you’re a reader in your childhood, you’re going to be a reader as an adult. That’s how we ensure we’ll have business in 20 years,” Watkins laughed.

Avid hosts book fairs, brings authors to schools, and has a weekly story time for children in shop. They even have a full-time school engagement specialist.

“We don’t want to be seen as a one dimensional place,” Kaplan stated. “We want to be able to provide programming for all ages, people from various walks of life. We want to serve the community as a whole.”

Watkins describes Avid as a “third place.” A place where the whole community can come to when they need to.

“Reading helps you feel known,” Watkins said. “It provides an outlet for you to discover emotional support. It can make your world bigger even when you’re trapped by finances, economics, your station in life, and how old you are.”

 

Black Minds Matter Too: UGA Student Starts Black Mental Health Organization

 

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Majenneh Sengbe, co-founder of Black Minds Daily, has a personal stake in the organization as she suffers from her own mental illnesses. (Photo credit: John James)

by Kalah Mingo

Forget all the stereotypes of mental illness. It has no face. It has no particular victim. Mental illness can affect any individual from any background and the black community is no exception. African Americans sometimes experience even more severe forms of mental health conditions because of unmet needs and barriers to treatment. According to the Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. That’s why UGA fourth year Majenneh Sengbe is taking action as the co-founder of her upcoming organization Black Minds Daily.

 

“Black Minds Daily started in honor of a late friend of mine that committed suicide… so I created this [organization] in honor of her to continue her legacy in some way and to bring awareness to mental health within black communities,” Sengbe says.

Black Minds Daily is an independent organization that focuses on ending the negative stigma of mental illnesses within the black community and creating a safe space for African Americans to discuss mental health. Sengbe’s ultimate goal for the organization is to become a nonprofit in order to help people seek treatment in its various forms and eventually provide treatment to those who can’t afford it. For now, the organization is taking steps toward that goal by spreading awareness with their events, collaboration with UGA organizations and with their website and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“I personally suffer from mental illness myself. I suffer from anxiety and I’ve experienced depression here and there… it’s something that affects me personally and it affects people around me…” Sengbe says.

When Sengbe first came to her father with the idea, he questioned why the organization catered only to black people rather than all people. Sengbe feels that when it comes to mental health, the black community is a vulnerable group that needs recognition because the effects of mental illness are oftentimes hidden.

ppl_stats“Mental health awareness itself is very known. A lot of people talk about it all the time, but it’s never really addressed within the black community and that’s mainly where it needs to be addressed because you have increasing incarceration rates; you have increasing suicide rates of black children yet nobody is talking about it. No one is doing anything,” Sengbe says.

The U.S. Census Bureau found that though blacks only make up 13 percent of the United States population, they account for 40 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population. Additionally, an Urban Institute report found that more than half of all inmates in jails and state prisons have a mental illness of some kind. Since the 1990s, suicide rates among black children have nearly doubled.  

Recently, awareness of mental health in the black community has been a topic of conversation with celebrities like Chance the Rapper opening up about his anxiety, Oprah Winfrey addressing her mental illness, Kid Cudi’s post on Facebook about his battle with depression and suicidal urges and news about Kanye West’s hospitalization for his mental well-being. Still, Sengbe believes awareness of mental health in the black community remains stagnant.

“Even with those people trying to draw awareness it’s still not moving forward…They’re not as publicized as they could be,” Sengbe says.

“I feel like having these celebrities talking about [mental illness] is a step in the right direction, but it’s not making that huge of an impact.”

illness_by_raceAccording to the National Alliance on Mental Illness there’s not a lot of difference in the prevalence of mental illness across races, however, African Americans in particular face several barriers when it comes to treating their mental illness. The Pew Research Center found that poverty among blacks has fallen over the years, but still disproportionately affects the black community, decreasing their access to affordable health care. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2015, 11.1 percent of African Americans had no form of health insurance.

Religion also plays a big role in why many blacks don’t seek treatment. Many African Americans turn to religion rather than professional help for their mental illness.

“Like anything else, if you’re not putting in effort to heal you’re not going to heal.” Sengbe says.

“Simply praying doesn’t solve the problem and I think that’s where a lot of people find frustrations when dealing with mental illnesses because you’re being told if you pray to God and rely on your faith, then that is enough to solve any problem, mental illnesses included…”

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Black Minds Daily sells merchandise like buttons and hats to raise money to become a nonprofit. (Photo credit: Black Minds Daily)

It’s barriers such as these that motivates Sengbe to continue her work with Black Minds Daily and become an official nonprofit.

“…we’re hoping to spread this information and hopefully reach someone, anyone and get them thinking about their mental health or thinking about pursuing treatment…” Sengbe says.

Mental illness can come with stigma in any case, deterring people from seeking help. However, through education and awareness, stigma can be reduced, allowing individuals to openly embrace their mental health.


Graphics by Kalah Mingo

Wide spectrum of ideas shared at fifth annual TEDxUGA

by Kemani Miles

In the past, the University of Georgia has had four previous TEDxUGA events with many more to come. The talks span from different perspectives to talk about issues that need to come to light and could help push society forward. This year, TEDxUGA decided to look at their fifth event from a different angle.

TEDxUGA took their talk in a whole new direction and used the idea of a “spectrum” to tackle different issues coming from 15 different speakers. The whole purpose of the this talk was to  make the the audience talk about different ideas and to cause them to think, which TEDxUGA succeed.

TEDxUGA was also the event for one of the first comedians to ever take the stage. Shaunak Godhinki, a fifth-year in Communication studies, does comedy shows five days a week in Athens and Atlanta.

Godhinki said that he decided to pursue comedy because he thought this was something exciting to do and he genuinely wanted to try it out.

“I’ve always thought that it was the coolest thing in the world but I didn’t know to get started in the field.” Godhinki said. “I don’t know if there was just a special calling, I just liked it alot and I have the most fun doing it.”

During Godhinki’s show he talked about his father, his girlfriend and even some funny moments here at UGA. He said that his first comedy show was held at a restaurant for a New Year’s party for his father’s job.

“My first show was at my dad’s New Years party. They asked another comic to do it but dropped out a week ahead. My dad was like, ‘my son will do it’.”

Godhinki will be graduating this May and has found a balance between school and comedy that fit perfectly for him, all because he really wanted to pursue his dream of comedy.

Professor W. Keith Campbell, the head of the department for psychology, also took the stage at TEDxUGA to talk about the narcissism. Starting in graduate school, he has spent 20 years researching narcissism and the different forms, like grandiose and vulnerable.

“I started studying for a few reasons, narcissism is really easy to see, so it’s kind of fun.” Campbell said. “Partly, I wanted to study the ‘non-self’ from a Buddhist perspective, I couldn’t figure out how to do that so I studied the opposite. Then part of it, it’s like a guy out there studying the Zika virus, you keep studying something and it works and then you can’t get off the carnival ride.”

Usually, people tend to think of narcissism as something that is negative but Campbell says that it could be used as something positive, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge where people would video themselves being drenched in ice water.

“It can be used could be used for positive ends.” Campbell said. “I try to look at narcissism as a trade-off, there’s positive aspects and negative aspects. All of things are good in moderate doses but too much is a real problem.”

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TEDxUGA was also the event for the performance of Asura, a fusion dance team. Jun Kim, one of the members of Asura, said that he joined Asura because he likes the mixture of the culture that Asura.

“I like to mix the cultures of my friends.” Kim said. “I just like to be in a mixture of different identities.”

Asura prides themselves on being very disciplined and very driven. They have competed at the national level and they continue to push themselves forward with more practice.

Kim went on to say that what helps keep the team successful is self-discipline.

“A lot of the success comes from self-discipline” Kim said. “Practice outside of practice, recording yourself through video, sending it into the executive on team, just self-discipline keeps the team successful.”

The TEDxUGA staff were also very helpful to all of the speakers with pushing them forward and helping them through this process. Jun Kim said that this event was something even better than other competitions.

“It was amazing.” Kim said. “We go to these competitions where they’re expecting the dance teams to come but we can honestly say that TEDxUGA was ran better than these competitions. The hospitality, the students, the resources were so helpful.”

Campbell said that he has done speeches before but nothing like TEDxUGA. They really made him think about what he wanted to talk about.

“I was incredibly impressed with the students.” Campbell said. “They really forced me to think about it in a harder way that I think lead to a better talk if left to my own devices.”

Godhinki feels that he had a duty to the NMI and TEDxUGA to do a good job and to do right by them but he was excited about the opportunity of being a part of this event.

“It’s been cool to work with people who really care about this.” Godhinki said. “It’s been cool to work with people who’ve done a lot to put this production on. It’s been a blessing to do this.”

TEDxUGA was something to really experience, with all the great talks spanning from different topics. This event was something that was ran so well and it was very impressive to watch.

Women of Color Take Their Place in the Business World

by Kalah Mingo

The world of business and entrepreneurship has experienced a shift in the past few years. According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, women-owned businesses have grown 45 percent over the past nine years, making the rate of growth five times the national average. Georgia is the second fastest growing state for women-owned firms with a 64 percent increase, only falling behind Florida with a 67 percent increase.

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More significantly, businesses owned by women of color have increased by 126 percent since 2007, making up 79 percent of women-owned firms in the past nine years and creating a trend of ethnic diversity in entrepreneurship across the United States.

African American women are one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs in America. Between 2007 and 2016, the number of African American women-owned firms increased by 112 percent. Shirlynn Brownell is the face of the new American business owner. The UGA alumnus from Atlanta, GA, is a part of this success of black female entrepreneurs.

Brownell has her own line of cruelty free, non-toxic nail polish, DKT Polish. She launched her own business with just $5,000 in September of 2016 and it has been growing ever since.

 

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Shirlynn Brownell, owner of DKT Polish, got the idea for her business after she visited a local nursing home in Atlanta to paint the resident’s nails on her 23rd birthday.

“I always loved nail polish. So, it’s been like a right of passage into womanhood in my life,” Brownell says.“I didn’t just want any regular polish. I wanted something that spoke to the causes that I’m passionate about and that’s being mindful of what you put inside of your body just as much as what you put on your body.”

The message of Brownell’s line is to encourage the modern day woman to spend time on herself to promote physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

“It just reminds me to make sure you slow down and take care of you because you can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not well and you can’t fill anyone from an empty cup, ” Brownell says.

Michelle Blue, a 2013 UGA graduate from Lithonia, GA, is a part of this success of black women as well. Blue is the owner and co-founder of Bené Scarves, a luxury scarf company that supports girls’ education in Ghana. The company gives 15 percent of each scarf sold to their non-profit partner SISTAWorks, Inc. The SISTA Scholar program sponsors tuition, book supplies and uniforms for girls continuing their education in Ghana.

“It’s our mission to see them through their full matriculation of school. Whatever girl we start, with we make sure we send her through graduation,” Blue says. “We just hope that our business, our product, our work and the girls that we support is a reflection of the goodness and love that we have.”

The idea for Blue’s company began when she went on study abroad trip in Ghana. She fell in love with the young girls she met on her trip and came back to share her experience with her childhood and current best friend, Sasha Matthews. Their idea for the business came to life their junior year of college. Blue and her co-founder Matthews started their business two weeks after their graduation.

“It was intimidating. I didn’t’ know anything and so I lacked resources and knowledge that you would need to start a business, but I researched a lot. I read a lot,” Blue says. “It was definitely very daunting and a lot of unknowns, but you make baby steps. You make progress and you go from there.”

Blue doesn’t see the increase of businesses owned by women of color as a surprise.

“African American women are one of the most educated groups in the country and I think it’s natural that this is following that. Hopefully, it’s making impacts in our communities and our families so it’s definitely important.”

In the future, the partners hope to grow their business and give back to their community by developing more programs in local Atlanta schools to invest in the community that they come from.

The number and economic contributions of women-owned firms continue to rise at rates higher than the national average with tremendous growth in the number of firms owned by women of color. The new American business owner is on her rise.


Graphics by Kalah Mingo
Photos courtesy of DKT Polish and Bené Scarves

Immigration Nation Come to Athens

by Samantha Ward

Immigration has been at the forefront of political debate for decades now but saw a surge in conversations once President Trump began campaigning. With such widespread debate opens up the possibility of misunderstandings and straight-up lies about immigration spreading like wildfire across the internet. Many nonprofits are working to clear up these misunderstandings as well as help affected undocumented immigrants in the process, and one of them, Immigration Nation, came to Athens the other week as a part of their national tour.

Immigration Nation was created in response to the election of President Trump and his stances and hateful rhetoric against undocumented immigrants. Before the news broke, friends and Immigration Nation co-founders Martina Carrillo and Lauren Burke were about to split ways with Carrillo continuing her education and Burke about to start a consulting agency, but their connection to these issues were too personal not to drop everything and get involved.  

On their Kickstarter page they said, “Given Martina’s personal experience as an undocumented immigrant and Lauren’s work with hundreds of immigrant families. we knew we couldn’t sit idly by as our communities were under attack.  We also wanted to create audio and visual work that would share the real immigration stories of our nation. Thus, immigration nation was born.”

While touring the nation they are providing free, on-demand legal services for immigrants, hosting trainings and know your rights sessions in schools and churches, educating concerned citizens on how to advocate for their immigrant neighbors. They plan to do so for at least the first six months of President Trump’s hold in office.

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One of the three training sessions held in Athens for allies of undocumented immigrants (Photo Credit: Janet Frick)

Some of what they have done in Athens is host three different trainings, one at a local high school and the other two at a church, as well as form an impromptu “Love In” at Taqueria La Parilla after it received hate notes for closing on “A Day Without Immigrants.”

Training sessions covered a variety of topics related to being an ally to undocumented immigrants, one at a church specifically addressing what it means to be a sanctuary city, church, or organization while all of them covered topics such as the most effective way to respond to witnessed hate crime, how to support local government officials in making immigrant-friendly legislation, and facts to debunk common misconceptions about undocumented immigrants.

Two of the most prominent false claims about undocumented immigration is that it is illegal and that there is a clear path to doing it legally. Rather, Burke pointed out during the session that in some ways it would be easier for immigrants if it was illegal to be undocumented because currently they don’t even have the rights of criminals such as the right to a speedy and fair trial and the right against unreasonable seizures and searches. As far as “the path” goes, America was once known for it’s open doors to immigrants and refugees from all nations but currently only grants green cards or citizenship to those whose immediate family are already citizens, have been married for at least 10 years to a citizen, are fleeing for their safety from a horrible situation, are sponsored through work, or are starting a company worth 5 million dollars or more.

At the “Love In” at Taqueria La Parilla, Carillo, Burke, and many Athens residents came together to show their support for the employees who chose to not work on “A Day Without Immigrants” and to send a message that hate will not be tolerated in this community. It was a warm sight with everyone singing “This Little Light of Mine” and giving Valentine’s Day-esque cards with messages such as “Tacos in my Belly, Love in My Heart,” “All Are Welcomed Here” and “Immigration is Beautiful.”

Carrillo and Burke are now continuing their work on the west coast while Burke also takes part in a documentary filming about mental illness. From there, the two will continue their journey to wherever they are needed next. To follow their journey, you can go to immigrationnation.co and find their email newsletter sign up, Kickstarter link, and social media links from there.

Existence As Resilience: The Third Annual LGBT+ Connect Conference

by Samantha Ward

Amid everything going on in the political sphere, there are still safe spaces standing strong for the LGBT+ community, and one of them is the annual Connect Conference here in Athens. Hosted by the UGA LGBT Resource Center on January 28, this all-day event gave LGBT+ people and allies the chance to come together at the Tate Grand Ballroom and build community while “exploring the intricacies of intersectionality and issues that affect LGBT individuals.”

Only their third year hosting this event, the LGBT Resource Center reported the following day that over 215 people registered for the event, and you could certainly tell when students, professors, and others from across the state gathered in the Tate Grand Ballroom for the welcome, lunch keynote speaker, and closing.

Despite the large gathering, attendees experienced a more intimate setting for workshops with each ranging from 25 to 50. These workshops covered a wide variety of topics and fell under the four tracks of mind, body, heart, and soul. While some participants chose to stick with one track, everyone was encouraged to mix and match workshops as they saw fit.

Rebekah Hutchins, a post-baccalaureate student with a degree in genetics, referring to the workshop “It Takes More Than Two to Tango,” said, “There was one about non-monogamy and polyamorous relationships. I’m not in a polyamorous relationship, but I got a lot of information about non-monogamous relationships. . . and they talked about different types of relationships, what those look likes, and guidelines that you make for them. It was really interesting.” She also liked the emphasis on communication in any type of relationship.  

Other workshops included “Queering Spirituality: Moving From Acceptance to Celebration,” a talk from Rev. Kim Sorrells about queer theology and themes connecting the two communities, “Making A Mosaic Out of Your Life,” a workshop hosted by the UGA LIFE lab promoting intergenerational consciousness in the LGBTQ community through meaningful connections, and “The Rainbow Hijab,” a talk by Amina Abdul-Jalil about what it means to be a Black, Queer, Muslim women today.  

At midday, Grace Nichols, a “rising performance artist, poet, musician, actor, dancer and activist. They identify as a queer, genderqueer, transracial adoptee living with disabilities,” gave the lunch keynote presentation on their personal experience living with these identities, using art as a means of resistance, and the importance of acknowledging the levels of privilege and oppression within each sector of identity.   

Before ending the day, attendees had the chance to attend one of six caucuses centered around gender identity, sexual orientation, and race which fostered a safe space for open-ended discussions about topics learned that day, shared struggles, personal narratives related to identity, and other subjects.
Some attendees are already looking ahead to next year’s conference. Hutchins said in the future she would like to see “more in-community talk because I know the LGBT community does have their own issues within the community and if we could address those and have discussions centered around those (intersectionality), that would be great,” but regardless, she highly recommends attending to anyone who is interested, members of the LGBT+ community and allies alike, as she says it is always a wonderful event for networking with others and expanding knowledge on various issues and topics within the community.   


Samantha Ward is a second-year journalism and women’s studies student and an online writer for Infusion Magazine

Building a Better Athens: Stories, Strategies, and Advice for Changing our World

by Kerri McNair

As I walk into this event half an hour early to an almost full room I am clued in to exactly how much the people of Athens value their civic duty. To say the room is bustling would be a vast understatement; by the time the event has officially started there are people standing outside the door so they can listen even if they can’t see and younger attendees sit in the aisles.

Hosted by Athens for Everyone and Avid Bookshop, this community gathering’s goal is to allow a prominent political activist to impart his wisdom about civilian and political activism, as well as to listen to the advice and opinions of some prominent activists and community leaders in Athens. The lineup includes names such as Ovita Thornton, Executive Director of the Georgia Clients Council and member of the Board of Education; Melissa Link of the ACC Comission, District 3; Broderick Flanigan of Flanigan’s Portrait Studio and Assistant Director of Chess and Community; Mokah Jasmine Johnson, leader of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement; Lemuel “Life” LaRoche, Executive Director of Chess and Community; and Tim Denson, President of Athens for Everyone.

Licata himself has served five terms on the Seattle, Washington City Council and won legislation for that city such as paid sick leave and a $15 dollar minimum wage. He mentions how much he enjoys visiting Athens as soon as he takes the podium, stating “I’ve been in Atlanta but…that’s different.”

He continues by humbling himself and assuring the audience, “I offer these [words] as what I’ve learned, I’m interested in hearing what you’ve learned as well.” He goes on to describe three overarching steps to effective citizen activism, the first of which is “evaluation and maintenance of resources you have access to,” meaning that one should be aware of the skills and influence of their fellow activists and how people can contribute to a cause other than with their wallets. A point he reiterates again and again is, “we’re a democracy but we’re a democracy because the rules are written down.” Without written rules, he mentions, people can tell you how much power they have.

Licata shares some funny lines about how a passionate activist must sometimes tone down their outward passion in order to get results. You don’t drive 60 miles per hour in a residential street, he says, and most of these politicians are residential streets. He also expounds upon the value of celebrating all victories, citing the fact that getting $15 dollars minimum wage for the citizens of Seattle was planned to happen much earlier than when it actually occurred. Without persevering and recognizing the small victories throughout the entire process, that large victory might never have come about. He ends by saying “The goal is to win with the least amount of pain on your part and the other person’s part, because you want to go back for more wins.”

After Licata’s address, other members of the panel offer their opinions, grounded in years of experience, before the Q and A session that would allow Athens citizens to voice their specific inquiries and concerns. Thornton, who first began her activism in the days of the Black Panther organization, starts by saying to the audience“Hi! …You’re supposed to say hi back!” the continues to impart her wisdom with an air of approachability. It’s about bringing something to the community, she says, bring something, recognize it, take something back.

Kerri McNair is the Opinions Editor for Infusion Magazine.   


Photos are curtesy of Avid Bookshop, an Athens local business.

UGA’s Vietnamese Student Association hosts Night in Saigon

by Caitlyn Richtman

UGA’s Vietnamese Student Association took over The Classic Center in downtown Athens the night of Saturday Jan. 14 for their annual cultural event, Night in Saigon. Although the event is held every year, this is the first year it was held in The Classic Center.

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VSA chose the theme of 13 Gifts of the Past for this year’s event. The theme highlighted the different struggles the VSA second generation students face while also reflecting back on their parents struggles as first generation immigrants and how the two are interconnected.

“It’s nice to showcase our culture to the students in Athens and all the people who come from out of state,” said Jody Dinh, secretary of UGA’s VSA.

img_8541Night in Saigon is at its core a charity event with this year’s proceeds going to the Catalyst Foundation. The Catalyst Foundation is an organization that helps to stop human traffic in Vietnam through education, community building, vocational training, food, and healthcare.

The doors of The Classic Center opened at 6 p.m. and guests dined on food donated by sponsors before sitting down to enjoy the four hour long production. The show was centered around a skit which followed the life of three second generation vietnamese americans. The three are shown struggling with pressure from parents, depression, and finding their passion. The skit also flashed back in time to show their parents escaping Vietnam and finding their place in American society.

In between scenes of the skit, the audience enjoyed other entertainment put on by the VSA which included dance routines, songs, magic, a fashion show, and a spoof of The Bachelor.

img_8537Students from all over the southeast traveled to see the show. Representatives from VSA’s came from University of Florida, University of South Carolina, and University of Central Florida among others attended the event.

VSA spends all year preparing and fundraising for Night in Saigon with their year revolving around the winter event.

“We have a year to prepare for [Night in Saigon],” Dinh said. “This is our main event and all of fall is basically spent preparing for this and the summer is when we are planning it. This event is completely philanthropic so all of the proceeds go to charity.”

Caitlyn Richtman is the Features Editor for Infusion Magazine.

Luxury Student Apartments Move Into Downtown Athens

By Madeline Jackson

The landscape of downtown Athens has changed drastically over the past five years. Apartments such as The Mark, The Standard, Uncommon, 909 Broad and Georgia Heights have moved in with top-of-the-line amenities ranging from Bluetooth enabled shower speakers to infinity pools overlooking Sanford Stadium; all within walking distance from the University of Georgia campus.

“I believe that students have always wanted to live near downtown but there has been a real lack of supply,” says Dr. Richard Martin, a real estate professor at UGA. “What we have seen over the past few years is a correction in this lack of supply.”

High-end amenities and close proximity to campus comes with a hefty price tag. Rent in these apartments range from $636.00-$1,245.00 per person. With the price of tuition and overall cost of living added in, it begs the question of whether or not luxury apartments are worth the price.

The Competition

The map shown above highlights the new luxury apartments and apartments with lower rent prices, but a greater distance to campus.

“For me, it’s all about the price,” says Casey Ciucci, a resident of The Woodlands. “I split the rent with my parents so I wanted to make sure I lived in a place I could afford.”

Despite some of the affordable apartments being built prior to 2010, they still offer a lot of the same amenities as the newer apartments. Every low-cost apartment on the map offers a swimming pool, an amenity Uncommon does not offer.

“Although we aren’t located downtown, I still feel like we keep up with the apartments with better locations since we do offer quality amenities at a low price,” says Ashley Morgan, the leasing manager at The Woodlands.

The high price of rent in the downtown apartments could potentially benefit those looking to live elsewhere.

“It is very possible that the downtown building boom could increase the number of affordable units in town,” says Dr. Martin.

Current Residents

The convenience of being steps away from UGA often outweighs the cost of rent.

“After living on Milledge Avenue last year and relying on an unreliable bus, having a timely way to campus was important,” says Cassidy Flood, a third-year UGA student and a resident of The Standard.

Real estate firms such as Landmark Properties have pounced on abandoned and unused lots to build high-rise, luxury apartments. Landmark currently owns and operates The Standard, 909 Broad and The Mark.

“I think it’s better for students to navigate downtown apartments that were specifically built for them, rather than living in houses previously owned by families,” says J. Wesley Rogers, the president and CEO of Landmark.

Not all residents have fallen for the hype of luxury living. Ian Ferguson, a third-year at UGA and former resident of 909 Broad doesn’t think the high cost of rent is worth it.

“You’re not really getting anything special opposed to the other complexes yet you’re paying quite a bit,” Ferguson says.

The Future

As of right now, Landmark does not have any current plans to build a new complex.

“Given the lack of availability of land, I don’t think you’re going to see more of these high-rises,” Rogers says.

With the number of UGA students staying at a constant rate, there has not been a high demand for more housing. However, Dr. Martin believes there has been a change in amenity demands from residents.

“The third source of new demand is a change in preferences for the type of housing,” says Dr. Martin. “This can be seen in the clear desire for more luxurious student housing.”

With more affordable options surrounding the perimeter of the UGA campus, the clear consensus of moving into pricier apartments is simply due to the location.

“My favorite thing is hands-down the location,” says Johnny Cohen, a third-year and resident of Uncommon. “It’s so convenient to go everywhere.”

Overall, every student has different preferences of what they look for in housing. Whether it be price, location or amenities, the city of Athens will continue to grow with every new class of students. Time will only tell if the investments in higher-end living will be worth it.