Georgia Activist to Host book Launch Party

Jamaican immigrant Mokah-Jasmine Johnson is in the fight for racial justice.

February 14, 2018

Athens, Georgia—Artist and activist Mokah-Jasmine Johnson has spent the past few years of her life fighting for justice and building a movement in the college town of Athens, Georgia.

Now the activist and educator is set to release her debut book “Spirit of an Activist: Stop Sitting on the Sidelines” during a launch party at Cine (234 W. Hancock Ave., Athens, Georgia) on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m. The book is available for presale.

“I wrote the book to give an account of how a wife, mother and entrepreneur could become who I am today—an activist seeking social justice in my community,” said Mokah, who moved to Athens in 2011.  “I want people to know and understand that it only takes one event to stoke the fire and desire to make a change, but it can take a lifetime of experiences and allies to build a movement.”

“Spirit of an Activist,” tells Mokah’s story from her early days as a Jamaican immigrant to the United States, to her recent work in building the Athens (Georgia) Anti-Discrimination Movement in response to racial injustices not only in her hometown, but also across the nation.

“The police shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin woke me up, but surprisingly, six years later a drink called “Niggarita” made me jump into action,” Mokah writes of her first foray into local activism. The discovery of the drink on the menu of General Beauregard’s, a Confederate-themed bar in Athens — home to the University of Georgia — made national attention and spurred Mokah and her husband, Knowa, into action.

Part survival manual, part manifesto for the examined life and part biography, “Spirit of an Activist” is an honest and searching book that will inspire readers to actualize their potential as citizens during these desperate and politically fraught times.

Mokah’s voice is one of wisdom, experience, leadership, and love — with a parting message that we are all bound together as neighbors, no matter our differences.

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For media interviews, please contact Lee PR at (678) 835-8497, jasminejohnsonedu@gmail.com or for more information visit www.mokahjohnsonedu.com

Mokah-Jasmine Johnson is an educator; activist; and music, media and marketing entrepreneur. She is a mother of four and grandmother of two. Mokah, along with her husband Knowa, co-founded the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, a grassroots organization that aims to combat discrimination through education and activism. She holds an M.S. in education, media design and technology from Full Sail University and a B.S. in marketing management. She is also the vice president and co-owner of United Group of Artists (UGA Live), a marketing, consulting and event production company. In January on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Mokah and her husband Knowa were honored by Georgia State Rep. Deborah Gonzales with a House Resolution honoring their community service.

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The Georgia Review Hosts Kaveh Akbar Poetry Reading

by: Diana Richtman

Entertainment Section Writer

It was a Monday night in Athens, and inside the Foundry I clutched my copy of “Calling a Wolf a Wolf” by Kaveh Akbar. Before The Georgia Review Fall Issue Release with Kaveh Akbar began, my sister and I looked at each other. I knew that she must have seen the unrestrained excitement on my face about Akbar taking the stage. The Foundry was a perfect place to hear Akbar read his poems — intimate while still allowing everyone the space they needed to experience his words aloud. Once he got on stage and began to read his poems, I saw firsthand what so many before me had already raved about. Akbar is the type of poet who possesses both talent and a willingness to work hard, and he is as kind as he is engaged with his readers.

Akbar’s poetry has appeared in publications like “The Georgia Review,” “Narrative,” “Tin House” and “The New Yorker.” He is a recipient of the 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. He is a professor at Purdue University and the founder and editor of “Divedapper,” a website devoted to publishing interviews with contemporary poets. Akbar is the author of the chapbook “Portrait of the Alcoholic,” and this past September his first full length book of poetry, “Calling a Wolf a Wolf,” was published.

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Kaveh Akbar reads a new poem at The Foundry in Athens, Ga. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.

Akbar was born in Tehran, Iran and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was around 2 years old. Akbar’s personal experiences often influence his writing. A good deal of his poems reflect on growing up as an immigrant and his search for his identity. His chapbook and full length collection both largely center around his recovery from alcoholism.

Akbar never seems to shy away from talking about poetry, whether it’s on his Twitter, or at a public event. After his reading, he opened up the audience to a Q&A session. When asked what advice he’d give to young poets wanting to see themselves published, he spoke a lot about his own experiences as a young writer, “The most salient advice that I could have given myself would be to just be patient, and I know that would have been an excruciating thing for me to hear.”

Akbar has taken to Twitter on more than one occasion to talk about his experiences of first trying to get his poems published, and he spoke to me a great deal on the subject. His advice? Send your writing to the places you like to read. Even if you get rejected, at least you know where you stand.

He touched on an important point during the event, which is that sometimes young poets need to step back and learn from the other writers around them. “I remember 17 year old me just wanting to be everywhere, and I just wanted to be talking to every editor and just wanted conversations. I was so hungry for it, but those conversations didn’t necessarily need to be centered around my own poetry,” Akbar said.

Concerning where his poems are headed next, he said, “There will be a time in the organizational process of the poems that I am writing right now where I’ll sort of gather them on a table and hold a metaphorical magnet over them and see what goes up.” He continued and said, “I don’t know. I’m excited to find out.”

Wherever his poems are headed, there is a sense that his readers are ready to follow him. We, too, are excited to find out.

A Blast from the Past: University Union Hosts Skate in Tate Event

By: Ana Gonzalez

Online Section Writer

Home game weekends are exciting on UGA’s campus. This past Friday, however, the festivities started a bit earlier. The University Union once again transformed Tate Grand Hall into a skating rink from the ‘80s for the annual Skate in Tate event. This was the fifth year that the student body was invited to strap on some wheels and relive their childhood for a night.

The turnout for the event was tremendous, as first year cell biology major Heath Aston from Marietta, Georgia can attest to. He was manning the waiver table just outside the hall, where he directed students to sign necessary documents before proceeding into the venue. “Seeing the number of people show up was pretty cool,” he said. “We had like over 700 people show up.”

Anxious skaters waited in a line long enough to lead out of the Grand Hall and snake around the side of the room for their skates. Attendees then awaited their turn out on the floor, with rounds of about 40 students permitted on the floor every 20 minutes. Amanda Werth, a senior marketing and international business major from Milton, Georgia was present to direct the skaters. “(My position) working line control gave me the opportunity to interact with people waiting to get inside and hear about how excited they are to be there,” she said. “It’s always fun to see how excited people are once they walk in the doors.”

The décor for this year’s bash consisted of bright colors, a pretzel stand, arcade games and a disco ball to the side of the skating floor. The music was upbeat, a mix of throwbacks and today’s hits. The atmosphere was energetic and bright, with some students dancing with friends in line with smiles on their faces. According to freshman journalism major Willie Daniely from Atlanta, who skated at the event, the function was a success. “I think that the event was a really cool and nicely executed,” he said. “These events are a really good way to meet other people and bond as a university.”

The director of the event, sophomore genetics major Ariane Wong from Marietta, was pleased by how Skate in Tate went. “I love being able to see students come out and enjoy themselves,” she said. “The fact that they could be having the most stressful test week but are still able to relax and take their mind off of school for an hour or two at a Union event gives me motivation to plan these fun events.”

Students help plan University Union events by attending meetings and sharing ideas about what they would like to see on campus. Werth, who is also the head of the organization’s entertainment committee, says the process is always challenging. Members must brainstorm a variety of events that appeal to a diverse group of people. She says, however, that the process is worth it. “My favorite thing is when my peers come up to me and thank me for putting an event on,” says Werth. “It helps us know that we are on the right track!”

BMLS Starts Conversation About Recent Hurricanes

By: Rachel Yuan

Online Section Writer 

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the impact of Hurricane Irma, disaster relief has been on the mind of UGA students. One student group in particular, the Black Male Leadership Society, made this the topic of their most recent meeting.

Vice President Nicholas Martin, a third year biology major, explained why this was an important issue to cover: “We came up with the idea of this meeting to inspire a spark in people to think about what their role is and how they can help those around them through the hurricane or just people around them in the community… people that just need to be picked up.”

The meeting started off with a presentation to fill members in about the current damage that both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have had on the affected locations, and then segued into an open discussion about disaster relief in response to the hurricanes. Two major questions were broached: “How do we respond to disasters?” and “Who is morally obligated to respond?”

Each member was asked to share what they thought was the most effective way to help those that have been impacted by the hurricanes. The discussion produced many ideas that the group might use going forward, like donating money to relief organizations, holding drives for food and clothes, fundraising and providing shelters for people displaced by the hurricanes. 

This also led into the issue of short-term relief versus long-term recovery and disaster prevention. While everyone agreed that relief is a necessary thing to focus on in the aftermath of a big disaster, group members brought up the problem of only focusing on temporary fixes, and forgetting about the long-term rebuilding of areas destroyed by natural disasters.

While there was a lot of agreement on tactics for disaster relief, there were differing views on the extent to which people are morally obligated to give. A main point of disagreement was whether the rich should be expected to step up and make big donations. Some argued that because they have the means, the wealthy should give more, while others thought that average people use the rich to excuse themselves from giving as much as they should. 

In the end, group members determined that everyone can, and should, do their part to help. Individuals have varying degrees of power or resources, but what ultimately matters is that they contribute in some way. However small, individual contributions matter, and when added up, they can make a serious difference in the lives of people who have been affected by disaster. This sentiment was echoed by Martin, who emphasized that “there are plenty of situations that people can’t control, such as these natural disasters, and out of our humanity, out of our empathetic feelings that we should have as human beings, we should be trying to help them.”

 

Protestors Gather at the Arch Against President Trump’s Immigration Ban

Photos by Nick Hummel

Across the country, people gathered in protest following President Donald Trump’s executive order on January 27th which denied entry into the United States for nationals from seven predominately Muslim countries: Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Iran and Iraq. The ban revoked about 60,000 visas. In Athens, Protestors gathered in a show of solidarity with immigrants and refugees.

The most notable was the fairly sudden protest that arose with a large turnout at JFK Airport in New York City.

People from the banned countries began to be allowed entry and reentry into the country after U.S. District Judge James Robart ordered a temporary restraining order on the ban Saturday Morning. The Appeals court rejected the Justice Department’s request to place a stay on Robart’s order while the court reviews the decision.

Smoky Haze over Athens

By: Julia Sanders
First year, Intended Journalism major
Online section writer

With a divisive presidential election happening last week and upcoming final exams looming just on the horizon, students at the University of Georgia are likely experiencing a mental fog. Meanwhile, UGA’s campus has been experiencing a very real fog.

The smoky haze rolled onto campus, accompanied by the strong smell of a campfire on Thursday, Nov. 10. It is no average campfire that is causing the smoke around campus, however.

The cause is forest fires – and rather large ones at that. According to the Wildfire Today website, the fires in Chimney Rock, NC started on Nov. 5 and have continued ever since. These fires probably started as the result of the low relative humidity and a recent lack of precipitation that have left the region dry and susceptible.

Jay T. Lynch, a Linguistics major from Cumming, GA said, “I first noticed the smoke Thursday at 10 a.m. I already knew about the forest fires because the smoke had already hit my hometown, so I knew that it was coming.”

In the article “Smoke from wildfires impacts Georgia,” Gabbert, the author, mentions that North Carolina has the most active fires currently, but the largest active fire is in Georgia – the 10,336-acre Rough Ridge Fire in the northern part of the state. This fire started on Oct. 16, when a lightning bolt struck a patch of land. Many people, including a little less than 300 personnel, have worked to help with the land.

Jacob Schindler, a Landscape Architecture major from Lake Park, GA, said that his initial thought when he saw the smoke was “something weird is going on.” He stated that on Thursday, he “saw something coming over the horizon…(he) read that Fannin County (in Georgia) had forest fires. Today (he) read that these fires have been going on since October, and we are now just getting the smoke from it.”

The result of these forest fires have been alarming, not only for the safety of the burning land, but also for the people living in NC, GA and the neighboring states. The fires in NC have become so extreme that many people have been forced to evacuate.

Hima Velaga, a Computer Science major from Sandy Springs, GA, said that she was “concerned for the safety for the people living near the forest fires.” Hopefully, the smoke will clear, and authorities will be able to quench the forest fires. Then, students can return to normal campus life – and thoughts of their final exams.

UGA Reacts to Veto of Religious Liberty Bill

By Samantha Ward

News broke on Monday, March 28, that Governor Nathan Deal was prepared to veto a group of bills known as the “Religious Liberty Bills.” Already passed through legislature, in essence these bills would give individuals, nonprofits, and businesses the right to refuse service to certain individuals based on religious beliefs.

Janet Frick, Associate Department Head for Psychology and member of the Oconee Street United Methodist Church, said, “. . . The claim is that they are to protect individual people’s right to free expression of religion, and not compelling them to perform acts that are in opposition to their religious faith. But in reality, they would open the door to businesses discriminating against gays and lesbians in similar ways to how businesses used to be able to discriminate against blacks.”

The most common example given to explain the implications of the bills is that they would allow Christian bakery owners to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding if the owners saw it as infringing on their beliefs. However, the bills would have allowed far more than just that.

“There was an uproar because many people were stating that it was a form of lawful segregation,” said Sophia Ramirez, a first year Biological Sciences major with pre-med intent, “but in my opinion it wouldn’t have been passed because it was unconstitutional to begin with . . . It’s quite subjective because you can’t tell someone is this that or the other by just looking at them. This bill relies heavily on opinion and judgment.”

Though it didn’t pass in Georgia, similar bills have now passed in Indiana, Mississippi and North Carolina, and many corporations are already showing their displeasure with the bills. Some say that is why Governor Deal vetoed Georgia’s religious liberty bills.

Frick said, “I think the legislators who voted for this wanted to show they have votes in favor of issues important to religious conservatives. However, in this case, the power of the business lobby trumped the power of the religious lobby, at least in Georgia.”

Considering this group of bills addressed more than just businesses, some have mixed feelings about the veto.

Justin Starner, a fourth year Computer Science major and member of the Athens Church, said, “I agree that ministers should have the right to choose whether or not they want to perform a marriage, regardless of sexual orientation. I do not, however, think businesses should be allowed to deny service to individuals based on religious beliefs or sexual orientation.”

Jay Morris, a fourth year Health Promotion and Behavior major and student ambassador for the LGBT Resource Center, said, “I definitely am a proponent of being able to practice your religion and have your beliefs and not be discriminated against for that, but I also don’t agree with using those religious beliefs to discriminate against someone else.”

Though these bills were vetoed, the possibility of seeing similar bills in the future looms on the horizon for Georgia and almost certainly for other states across the country.

Morris said, “I definitely think there are going to be more of these bills, definitely a lot of these bills being reconstructed so that the language is different, and maybe even creating a bill that does protect religious freedom but also doesn’t discriminate against the LGBT community because I don’t think that those are mutually exclusive things.”

This is an issue affecting many individuals, and as Frick stated, it will be important to watch how it plays out around the country.

UGA Plans to Upgrade Wi-Fi Network in Residence Halls

By Kalah Mingo

Dameco Young, a first year Theatre and Communications major from West Point, GA, sat down in his Russell Hall dorm room to take his weekly psychology quiz. He completed the readings and felt prepared. He logged into E-Learning Commons (eLC) and used his one attempt to take the timed quiz. Once satisfied with his answers and with a few minutes to spare, he selected submit. Young was expecting the usual “quiz successfully submitted” page to load, but wasn’t shocked when the error message “webpage unavailable” came up instead.

Paws-Secure had gone out again, invalidating his one attempt for the quiz and causing him to receive a failing grade, which could only be resolved after emailing his professor several times. This wasn’t the first time Paws-Secure failed Young and other students at the University of Georgia.

 


Many have dubbed it “Paws-Insecure” because of its lack of stability.


Young turned in an essay through ELC and Paws-Secure went out after he submitted it. The next day he realized he didn’t get a confirmation email and knew that his essay hadn’t submitted properly because of the Wi-Fi outage.

“I had to beg my professor to let me re-submit it,” Young said.

Fortunately, the University of Georgia plans to upgrade the Wi-Fi network in all of their residence halls to make Paws-Secure faster and able to support more devices. Paws-Secure has been the primary Wi-Fi option on UGA’s campus since Vice President for Information Technology Timothy Chester came to UGA in September 2011. However, Paws-Secure has posed several connectivity issues for students. Many have dubbed it “Paws-Insecure” because of its lack of stability.

“We knew that there were problems in the dorms based on anecdotal feedback, but we didn’t know how pervasive the problems were,” Chester said.

The Enterprise and Information Technology Services (EITS) recognized this problem. They sent out a survey to students in University Housing about PAWS-Secure to determine the next steps in improving the wireless service in residence halls. Almost 40 percent of residents in University Housing responded to the survey. Chester received over 3,000 survey responses.

The survey revealed that residents in Russell Hall, a freshman dorm, consistently had the most problems accessing the wireless service. In response, EITS chose the residence hall as a pilot for an upgraded wireless network with increased speed and capability. Over spring break, EITS installed almost 300 wireless access points throughout Russell Hall.

“Paws-Secure is extremely fast now. It’s faster than the ethernet,” Young said.

EITS plans on installing this new AC wireless network in all of the University Housing dorms over the next 12 months.The current wireless network in the rest of UGA’s dorms runs on a weaker B or G network. AC wireless networks have stronger signal strength, making it ideal for highly populated living areas like dorms.

Senior Public Relations Coordinator Kerri Testament said EITS sent Russell Hall residents a second survey to get students’ feedback on the upgraded wireless network. The residents’ feedback will help EITS evaluate the effectiveness of their plan to expand the new AC wireless network.

This project is funded by the $114 Student Technology Fee that UGA students must pay each fall and spring semester.

The Panama Papers

By Scotti Morris

What are the Panama Papers? They are the more than 11.5 million doucuments that an anonymous leaker sent to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on April 3. These documents implicated several global leaders and personalities who obscured undisclosed amounts of cash in tax-free overseas “offshore accounts” provided by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. While many of the individuals involved with Mossack Fonseca used their offshore accounts for tax-evasion purposes, others have eve less tasteful uses for hoarding their money.

The documents have revealed a level of international and economic corruption unseen in any other scandal. Billionaires, celebrities, politicians, presidents, and athletes – a collection of the world’s elite – have used Mossack Fonseca’s accounts to perpetrate and prolong illegal and inhumane business practices. While offshore accounts are not illegal per se, President Barack Obama said that “global tax avoidance generally is a huge problem.”

Vox uses an analogy to explain the meaning of the Panama Papers and offshore accounts.

“When you get a quarter you put it in the piggy bank. The piggy bank is on a shelf in your closet. Your mom knows this and she checks on it every once in a while, so she knows when you put more money in or spend it.

Now one day, you might decide “I don’t want mom to look at my money.” So you go over to Johnny’s house with an extra piggy bank that you’re going to keep in his room. You write your name on it and put it in his closet. Johnny’s mom is always very busy, so she never has time to check on his piggy bank. So you can keep yours there and it will stay a secret.

Now all the kids in the neighborhood think this is a good idea, and everyone goes to Johnny’s house with extra piggy banks. Now Johnny’s closet is full of piggy banks from everyone in the neighborhood.


Now in real life, many very important people were just caught hiding their piggy banks at Johnny’s house in Panama.


One day, Johnny’s mom comes home and sees all the piggy banks. She gets very mad and calls everyone’s parents to let them know.

Now not everyone did this for a bad reason. Eric’s older brother always steals from his piggy bank, so he just wanted a better hiding spot. Timmy wanted to save up to buy his mom a birthday present without her knowing. Sammy just did it because he thought it was fun. But many kids did do it for a bad reason. Jacob was stealing people’s lunch money and didn’t want his parents to figure it out. Michael was stealing money from his mom’s purse. Fat Bobby’s parents put him on a diet, and didn’t want them to figure out when he was buying candy.

Now in real life, many very important people were just caught hiding their piggy banks at Johnny’s house in Panama. Today their moms all found out. Pretty soon, we’ll know more about which of these important people were doing it for bad reasons and which were doing it for good reasons. But almost everyone is in trouble regardless, because it’s against the rules to keep secrets no matter what.”

The political backlash against implicated authority figures has been massive.

Thousands of protesters occupied Downing Street demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Cameron who admitted on April 8 that he did benefit financially from an offshore company created by his father, “a fund that was sold for £31,500 just before he became prime minister in 2010.” Speculation also deduces that the source of Cameron’s £300,000 inheritance from his father may have been from another offshore tax haven.

Currently, (April 11), Cameron defends his investments and tax practices in the House of Commons.

Iceland has elected a new Prime Minister after the leaked documents revealed former Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson had connections to an offshore company through his wife.

Though not directly linked to offshore accounts, Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin has been suspected to have benefitted since the Panama Papers revealed that several of his close friends have billions of dollars in assets in offshore accounts. The Papers also disclosed that the children of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have raised close to $10 million from loans connected to offshore accounts.

While no American politicians have been mentioned in the Panama Papers, over 200 citizens were mentioned in the leaked documents, including billionaires and CEOs of oil companies.

The documents also exposed connections to some internationally known personalities.

Willian, a soccer player for the English club Chelsea, was shown to have owned a portion of an offshore company called Saxon Sponsoring Limited. His spokesperson confirmed that Willian dissolved his connection to the company before signing onto play with Chelsea.

The Papers also implicated Hollywood personalities. Late filmmaker Stanley Kubrik’s daughters were shown to have managed offshore companies, the profits of which funded Kuvrik’s purchase of his Hertfordshire mansion. Jackie Chan has provided no comment since it was revealed he owned at least six offshore companies.

Yet, one has to consider the fact that this is only one company that has been exposed, and one can only wonder how many similar organizations – and public figures connected to them – exist.

Link to the actual documents: https://www.documentcloud.org/public/search/Source:%20%22Internal%20documents%20from%20Mossack%20Fonseca%20(Panama%20Papers)%22

Link to an explanatory video published by the ICIJ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6XnH_OnpO0es

Sources :

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/06/panama-papers-reveal-offshore-dealings-stars

http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/04/world/panama-papers-explainer/

http://www.vox.com/2016/4/4/11360052/panama-papers-leaks

http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/05/europe/panama-papers-iceland-pm/index.html

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/04/06/national/nawaz-sharifs-children-raised-7m-against-uk-flats-owned-offshore-report/

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/05/panama-papers-leak-americans-exposed-tax-havens

Take Back the Night 2016

Photos by Jane Snyder.

On Friday, April 8 UGA’s Women Studies Student Organization hosted their spring fundraiser, Take Back the Night, at Nuçi’s Space. The event featured a musical performance by Awkward Thrust and speakers from The Cottage and Project Safe. At the end of the night, everyone gathered for a march to the Arch and a candlelit vigil for survivors and victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.