OPINION | Beyoncé and Grammys on the Rocks


Again. He’s about to do it again.

The thought must have passed through thousands of minds at the same time when at the 2015 Grammy awards viewers saw Kanye West mount the stage. The act was a near repeat of the stunt he pulled during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards when, fueled by Hennessy and a strong opinion, West took the microphone from Taylor Swift’s hands and announced to the audience that “Beyoncé had one of the best music videos of all time!”

His outburst was almost universally condemned as inappropriate, and he was about to do it again.

It came at the biggest moment in the show: Prince had just given Beck the award for Best Album of the Year for “Morning Phase.” Kanye hopped on the stage, made a beeline for Beck. The cameras scanning the audience made apparent the chagrin on their faces.

Yet, I cannot help but think that his outburst this year was justified. Among the nominees that Beck beat out for Best Album: Beyoncé’s self-titled album.

Beck is a great artist, and “Morning Phase” is a good album. It was no surprise to me when he won Best Rock Album of the Year. He should not have beaten Beyoncé for Best Album.

“Beyoncé” was released without prior notice or promotion on December 13, 2013. Year-end best lists that had already been completed made room for it. It experimented with the concept of an album by pairing each song with a video. Her experiment was highly lauded, the videos themselves winning awards. It won overwhelming approval from a wide range of audiences and phrases like “I woke up like this” quickly entered the zeitgeist.

Beyoncé had the best album of the year, so why were the Grammys reluctant to give her credit?

Grammys’ Record through the Years

Think back to the 2013 Grammy Awards. In the largest upset of the awards season that year, Mumford and Sons’ “Babel” beat out Frank Ocean’s “channel ORANGE” for album of the year. In that year, as in this one, the losing artist’s album had received overwhelmingly positive scores from critics, while the winner had a less stellar record. Metacritic, a site that aggregates prominent critical reviews into one composite score based on a 100 scale, ranked “Babel” at 63; “channel ORANGE” received a 92.

The 2014 Grammys. In the rap category, the highly favored album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” by Kendrick Lamar (Metacritic score of 91) failed to take the Rap Album of the Year title; it went to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for “The Heist” (Metacritic score of 74), also defeating rap heavyweights West, Jay Z, and Drake. Even Macklemore confessed that he did not understand this decision, later posting to Instagram that Lamar “should have won [in my opinion].”

There is also the fact that, despite its prominent popularity among viewers, awards given out in the Rap category – a category that is predominantly black artists – have often lagged behind other categories in terms of screen time and were not televised at all during this year’s ceremony.

At a December show in Phoenix, West said, “I’m 36-years old and I have 21 Grammys. That’s the most Grammys of any 36-year old. Out of all of those 21 Grammys, I’ve never won a Grammy against a white artist.” While his claim may not be the rule, his 53 Grammy nominations go to show that his talent – and thus his suggestion of bias against black artists – are not coincidences

I also have to consider that the upsets of these past three years – some more upsetting than others (really? Mumford and Sons?) – are more than upsets, considering how linked they seem. They are denials of true talent.

With all the bias against powerful black artists, who are the Grammys truly awarding?

And the Winners Are…

“The GRAMMY Foundation was established in 1988 to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture,” their website reads.

“Beyoncé” was more than a contribution to American culture. It modified the stance of women in the music industry with its feminist ethos and evolved the genres of R&B and pop by incorporating hip-hop and electronic elements in surprising ways. It was – and remains – an impactful cultural

“At this point, we tired of it. What happens is, when you keep on diminishing art, and not respecting the craft, and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration,” West said when prodded about his actions after the Grammys.

I think of the astounding, inspired literary feats in American history that have been banned for their “obscenity,” and I shudder. Looking back now, it is easy to see that the values of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Howl” trump their supposed obscenity. How foolish were the people who held them back in the first place, just for what they appeared to be.

I can only hope a similar mistake is corrected before it is too late, because when great art is denied on any basis, the wins are superficial and everyone loses.


Kanye quote from 2009 MTV Music Video Awards < http://www.mtv.com/ontv/vma/2009/&gt;

Macklemore quote <http://time.com/2103/grammys-2014-macklemore-says-kendrick-lamar-was-robbed-on-best-rap-album/&gt;

The Grammy Foundation info <http://www.grammy.org/grammy-foundation&gt;

Kanye after Grammys quote <http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/02/kanye-beck-grammys&gt;

Kanye performing in Arizona quote <http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/5820083/kanye-west-addresses-grammy-album-of-year-snub-watch&gt;

Album review scores via <metacritic.com>


“All Men Are Created Equal”: Are We There Yet?


On Tuesday, February 17, the Black in America Tour with Soledad O’Brien stopped at UGA and led a discussion with attendees concerning racial inequalities in America. With over 600 people in attendance, O’Brien along with a panel of renowned black voices including author and economist Julianne Malveaux, comedian W. Kamau Bell, UGA alumnus and executive director of Community Connection Fenwick Broyard, and co-founder of Def Jam records Russell Simmons (via Skype) spoke to students, faculty, and guests about problems that Black Americans face today, namely the policing of communities of color.

Opening with various stories, O’Brien asked a number of rhetorical but insightful questions. “Are we in race fatigue?” she asked of the audience, adding that “We would like to forget about a contentious 400 year history…blacks, historically, have had less to begin with…you start behind, and you’re further behind.” O’Brien then brought up a multitude of statistics to give a real idea of the separation between communities of color and whites, with one graph showing the differences in unemployment rates (Whites: 4.6%, Blacks: 10.2%), and another graph showing the net worth of families (Whites: $265,000, Blacks: $28,500). These staggering statistics led to collective disbelief and exasperation from the predominantly black audience, and these statistical realities were just the beginning of numerous personal stories that would show the inequality between the different communities.

In the 2015 Black in America documentary entitled “Black and Blue,” O’Brien interviews Keeshan Harley, a black male college student in New York City. He tells his story of the police have stopping him over 100 times, and he opens up on the first time he was detained: “I first got stopped [and] frisked when I was 13. They say I say I fit a description. That’s — I would say 9 times out of 10 the excuse they give me. What’s the description? A young, black male 18 to 25.”

This one example speaks volumes to the daily life that many young, black men face, especially in cities like New York. In the past decade, the New York City Police (NYPD) have made over 5 million stops, with 80% of those stops being Black or Latino people. Of those stops, 88% of them did not end in arrest or any charge, showing that most stops were based simply on looks versus potential crimes being committed. These stops create psychological and emotional stress—Keeshan said that he considered dropping out of college in order to avoid harassment by the police.

As the panel discussion began, it offered the perspective of successful yet affected members of the Black community. In his opening remarks, W. Kamau Bell said, “I’ve learned to take up less space because it causes less problems… anything can go wrong and I can be the next black man who was killed.” This sparked the conversation of microaggression, and the importance of recognizing that these “micro-things” affect people’s entire lives. Julianne Malveaux brought up an extremely humbling “what-if” scenario of “what he [young men of color] could’ve been if he hadn’t had to carry all that rage around,” speaking volumes to the capacity of life people have when they aren’t constantly under assumption that what they’re doing is wrong.

Fenwick Broyard offered his opinion on the importance of accountability in the police department. He voiced his concern that there needed to be accountability on every action, including having a legitimate reason for even reaching for a gun or stopping someone on the streets. He believed that having to explain your reasoning for the small behaviors would in turn stop the unreasonable actions of stopping young black men for simply walking around, or potentially killing someone, such as Eric Garner, without reason (the Eric Garner case was brought up extensively throughout the panel discussion). Broyard also expressed the need for everyone to take part in “policing” the community, saying that “law enforcement was only one part of the equation,” and that we as a society need to participate in the elimination of microaggression and discrimination against specific groups and communities.

As the floor opened up for the final part of the event, student and guest questions, most of the questions had the same underlying theme: “What are we going to do?” The first student asked, “How do we get more stories about us—about who we are—out there? There’s this image [of blacks], and there are many of us that don’t fit that image.” Malveaux gave an honest answer, advising everyone to tell their stories, the unseen stories of black America, versus retelling the stories of the same Black icons year after year. She stressed the importance by telling the story of her grandmother, saying, “She’s not a hero, but she scrubbed floors so I didn’t have to” and emphasized that every positive story was bettering the image of black people.

Other questions included:

  • “What can we do to make the conversation more accessible?”
  • “What is the conversation that needs to be had in Athens?”
  • “Is drug policy exacerbating the racial divide?”
  • “Why are these incidents of police brutality not framed in human rights violations and why isn’t the US government being held accountable?”

Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America Tour was an incredible opportunity for members of the Athens community to come together and brainstorm ideas on how to have this conversation of equality with other people. Though the conversation is just beginning and is certainly an uphill battle, the panel promised that these conversations would come to fruition if pursued. “We have to be committed to social and economic equality in the long haul,” Malveaux vocalized, and Fenwick showed his agreement—“You’ve got to throw all you’ve got at it until you see the results you want.”

Year of the Goat Receives Artistic Welcome


View AASA’s Lunar New Year Celebration 2015

For the clever and shy individuals out there, this year is for you.

The Lunar New Year on February 19 will kick off the Year of the Goat according to the zodiac, which divides the calendar into 12-year cycles.

“People born in the Year of the Goat are known as kind-hearted, sensitive, indecisive, and a bit more subtle than those born in the Year of the Horse, which is coming to a close,” Asian American Student Association (AASA) president Alyssa Pel said.

Pel, a senior Biology major from Lilburn, coordinated this years’ Lunar New Year Festival at UGA, which took place Sunday, February 15 in Tate Grand Hall and brought together a crowd of over 200 people for an evening of Asian food, student performances, and a fashion show highlighting traditional outfits.

“The vision of what we wanted was a big event where everyone could come in and learn a little bit more about our culture and get to share it with people who understand it,” Pel said. “It involved a lot of collaboration and reaching out to other organizations on and off campus.”

This is the second time AASA has hosted a festival of this scale and their first year in Tate. They outgrew the Memorial Ballroom from last year when their attendance was twice what they had anticipated.

Although Pel said individuals often think simply of the Chinese New Year, not every Asian culture celebrates the new year and those that do, including Vietnamese and Koreans, each have their own traditions.

“My parents are very Americanized, and I am very Americanized, but recently my grandparents moved in with us, so they brought some of their older traditions into the house,” junior Management Information Systems major Jacquelynne Huynh from Lawrenceville said. “There is always something new and neat to learn.”

Huynh said she attended the AASA festival to support friends and because of her involvement with the Vietnamese Student Association.

She said her favorite parts of the evening were a performance of the song “Masterpiece” by Pel, Megan Asadian, Jay Kim, and An Vu and the “main skit” which involved a student-produced short film about a race between the animals of the zodiac.

Other performances included a Vietnamese traditional fan dance, a rendition of the song “Tong Hua” in Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, and English, and a dance to the pop song “Uptown Funk.”

Rachel Lilja, a senior Psychology major from Warner Robbins, earned applause during an impressive amount of whistling for her performance of Jackie Chan’s song “Endless Love” along with student Chris Nguyen.

Lilja, the AASA treasurer, said she has been whistling for 10 years, although this was her first time doing it in a performance.

The whistling, which complimented the song’s Mandarin and Korean, sounded more like a musical instrument than a voice.

“The festival is definitely a different environment since you can sit down and eat and enjoy the performances and get to see another side of students and their hard work and talent outside of just sitting in a dorm studying,” Pel said.

For Lilja, the event means even more than just a celebratory meal.

“I joined AASA as a junior because I wasn’t really connected to the Asian community. This introduced a friend group without the pressure of needing to know Mandarin,” she said.

While Pel said it is hard for some students to go home for holidays like the Lunar New Year, connecting to culture at UGA is not impossible, and she said spending the holiday at school simply means celebrating with a different family.

“In high school yes, it was hard to keep up with traditions, but in college with organizations like the AASA and Vietnamese Student Association, I think it is a little bit easier,” Huynh said.

In addition to performances and the fashion show of clothing from Afghanistan to Japan, Tate Grand Hall was decorated to best welcome the year with lanterns, drawings, and centerpieces decked out in red and gold, which Pel said symbolize good health and fortune.

Attendees of the event also shared a meal from Wok Star Restaurant including rice, noodles, dumplings, egg rolls, fortune cookies, and, in keeping with the cultural infusion theme of the night, a dessert of Insomnia Cookies.

“Food is a big thing for the New Year. Our family usually cooks everyone’s favorite dish, and it is almost like our Thanksgiving,” Pel said.

Lunar New Year: https://storify.com/mrsimon22/lunar-new-year-festival

Guo Nian Hao! Happy New Year!


The Spring Festival is an annual tradition celebrated in China and worldwide. The festival marks the beginning of the Lunar Year, also known as the Chinese New Year and is marked by a presiding animal zodiac. This fifteen day celebration is marked with fireworks, special meals, and an abundance of the color red.

On Friday, February 13, UGA celebrated its very own Spring Festival. The event featured comical skits, musical performances, dance performances, a tai-chi demonstration, and my personal favorite: a magic show.

The event, hosted by the Chinese Student Association and the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association, aims to bring the Chinese community together and to enhance cultural awareness and communication between international students and American students. Jincheng Wang, a PH.D. student of toxicology who serves as president of the Chinese Student Association said, “some of us do not understand our own culture very well, so during this cultural communication, we are helping the people from outside of the Chinese community to understand more of the Chinese culture and more of our country and also helping ourselves learn more about our own country.”

The Spring Festival did just that. The event introduced time-honored traditions of the Chinese New Year like eating dumplings and popping fireworks, but it also included modern dances and musical performances, showing us that culture is indeed a very complicated thing. However, the resonating theme was that of coming together to celebrate with family and friends. This is a theme that we can relate to no matter who we are because it transcends all cultural boundaries.

This year, there appears to be some confusion as to what zodiac animal is being celebrated. Vietnam, for one, is gearing up for the “Year of the Goat” as is evident by the image of this animal on their banknotes. On the other hand, Japan has been busy printing sheep-themed New Year post cards to celebrate the “Year of the Sheep.”

However, this confusion seems to only trouble English-speakers. To the Chinese and others celebrating the Spring Festival, the distinction is irrelevant. “It’s funny. In China, it is only one word; it’s the yang. It’s the same character and we use this character to mean the same thing. But it doesn’t matter, it’s the same thing,” explained Wang.

The Spring Festival is the most important celebration of the year for the Chinese, similar to the importance of Christmas and Thanksgiving in the United States. This is why the distinction of what animal is being celebrated is unimportant. At the end of the day what matters is that the Spring Festival is spent celebrating with family and friends.

Featured Image is “Edmonton Chinese New Year 2015” by IQRemix, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Africa Night to Promote Modern Feminism


As part of the annual tradition of Ethnic Nights put on by many International Student Life (ISL) organizations, the African Student Union’s (ASU) Africa Night will be taking place February 20th and 21st in Morton Theater. This year’s Africa Night will be a play entitled “Just a Woman.”

“Just a Woman,” directed by ASU cultural secretary Sena Ahiayibor, is a comedic drama set in the fictional, ambiguous village of Bantuba. The play centers around the protagonist Malaika Jimo, who is receiving pressure from family and peers to find a husband despite her wishes to remain independent and focus on her increasingly successful career.

“Even though the previous plays were also great and successful, I’m particularly excited about this play because we’ve never done one like this before,” said Ijeoma Okoye, president of the ASU and a producer of this year’s Africa Night production.

While earlier years’ plays were highly entertaining, this year’s production is much more “dynamic” in that it is much less steeped-in traditional romantic themes than the more “lovey-dovey stories” of previous years, according to Okoye.

Using this focus, “Just a Woman,” incorporates the evolution of African cultures into the modern age with a discussion of old versus new ideals, particularly for women. This is also a way that the ASU has sought to make the play relatable to anyone’s culture.

Structurally, “Just a Woman,” is still similar to Africa Night productions of years past. In order to rise to the challenge of being as inclusive as possible of the many various African cultures in one night, the production is also a variety show of sorts, despite mainly being a play. Within the framework of the play, there are five dance numbers as well as a fashion show scene, in which both tradition and modern aspects are included.

“For instance, there’s a nightclub scene in which the dancing is more modern, but there’s also a more traditional dance,” explained Okoye.

Tickets for Africa Night can be bought either online (here) or at the Tate Center Ticket Office. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show, however there is a discount through which UGA students can get Friday night tickets for $7.

ASU began preparation in September, which is when director Ahiayibor, Okoye and co-producers Dami Sailu, Samira Issa-Boube, Mark Abere and Audrey Udemba began scriptwriting. Auditions and practicing began in October.

For the preparation process, leadership positions are delegated into one director, five producers, four dance coordinators, and three fashion coordinators for the fashion show. However, the ASU has attempted to include all interested ASU members’ contributions, particularly for the continued success of future shows and also so that many African cultures are equally represented.

“Like for me, I’m Nigerian,” said Okoye, “so I wouldn’t want the play to only reflect those kinds of [colloquialisms] and not others.”

It takes as many willing, qualified hands as possible for a production for this magnitude. While all of ASU contributes, the main cast consists of 16 members. However, there are also 20 fashion-show models and 40-50 dancers.

Africa Night Tickets: http://ev11.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=TSE&linkID=m-ta-ugaarts&fromDesktop=1



Fox & Friends, the Fox News morning show, kicked off its December 30 program by looking toward the new year. The discussion centered around things in 2014 that hopefully would not follow the world into 2015 (e.g.- pretzel buns and selfies!).

The well-meant attempt of what could be seen as an attempt at giving American culture New Year’s resolutions – and certainly we could use fewer pretzel buns on everything – quickly devolved into a religious statement when co-host Elisabeth Hasselback provided Twitter with some inspiration to tweet their own opinions with the hashtag #OverIt2014. Fox & Friends tweeted a picture of the smiling Hasselback stating she is over “attacks against Chrisitianity – in what is one of the most religiously tolerant and mostly Christian nations on the planet.

Logically, the teeming masses of Twitter users were inspired to use the hashtag to attack Fox News’ outrageous claim and other aspects of the channel.

Twitter user @gwswartz derided Fox broadly, claiming he was over, “Being subjected to climate change denial, fear mongering & racism presented as news. #OverIt2014,” things that Fox News has taken criticism for in the past.

Gabe Ortíz, Twitter user @TUSK81 tweeted, “ @foxandfriends I’m over “Survivor” contestants disguised as “journalists” #OverIt2014” referring to Hasselback’s past as a participant on the reality series, then rise to working for a national news source seemingly out of nowhere.

One user, @Anastas2002, went so far as to claim he was over “Fox News being treated as a legitimate news source.”

The resulting firestorm effectively put a swift end to any hope that the hashtag had of being perceived as legitimate. Perhaps in the new year we can look forward to more well-thought out social media campaigns from national news sources.

Imbalanced Radio Stations Shrink Their Own Appeal


It is easy – almost reflexive in this day and age – to see radio DJ as a nearly obsolete profession considering that mobile digital media players (MP3 players/devices) are still increasing in popularity worldwide and have been since their initial market boom in the early-mid 2000s. Additionally, music streaming service apps such as Spotify and Pandora have further diminished the appeal of radio.

Radio music stations have done little to nothing to safeguard their place in the modern era, and many radio personalities seem to actually rely solely on their charm or wit to garner loyal listeners. Aside from the sheer convenience of MP3 devices and music streaming apps, most of the appeal of digital media has to do with the fact that users are able to consume various musical styles all through one device without restriction. Radio, even those stations that claim to provide a wide variety, simply does not have this same allure.

To be clear, this is not a denunciation of pop stations that play pop, old rock stations that play old rock, or alternative stations that play music of that captivating but ill-explained genre. The criticism is for those stations that emphasize a variety of genres, especially those that claim to play “new music,” as in newly released music, but neglect the evidently guilty pleasure that is hip-hop.

There is no reason for the exclusion of hip-hop music. Radio edits remove profanity and clean up the content, as they do with commonly – excessively – played pop songs. In addition to its hypocrisy in consideration of pop songs, the vulgarity argument also is not enough to disregard those songs that are not explicit.

The exclusion of hip-hop also often reaches discriminatory levels. This can be seen in those stations such as Hits 102.7 in Rapid City, South Dakota, 96.3 WDVD in Detroit, Now 1005 in Sacramento, Fresh 94.7 in Washington D.C., or to come a bit closer to home, Star 94.1 in Atlanta, which are currently using or have in the recent past used the tagline “Today’s Hits Without The Rap.” This tagline has its roots in hip-hop’s genesis, when hip-hop was widely looked upon with more open hostility than discomfort.

Though they have played songs without the rap portions before and after the use of the tagline, the question of why remains unanswered. The idea that the songs are better without the rap portion is unsupported by the growth in fame and riches of hip-hop artists.

The tagline comes off as distinctly passive aggressive – covert racism at its finest. It is too difficult to understand why a station can supposedly have nothing against hip-hop or rap and yet reject the use of them in top 40 pop songs.

The point that these stations would play songs without the rap portions regardless of the tagline is not a strong defense. If the stations hold no opposition against rap, there are two major questions that this weak justification does not answer: 1) Why does the fact that the songs are being played without the rap parts entail stating in a tagline meant to enhance attractiveness? 2) Why are they are being played without the rap parts at all?

People are understandably going to be offended by the inherent insinuation that these stations find rap so objectionable that oddly long instrumental or musical breaks create a better listening experience.

These radio stations will soon be burying themselves under their own partiality. People may still go to classical stations for classical music or jazz stations for jazz, but there is clear inconvenience in stipulations like “new music” (except for…) or “today’s hits without…” The tide has long since turned toward digital and mobile media where quite frankly, the selection is greater, the variety is unquestionable, the trivial commentary is absent, and the ads – if any – are shorter and more infrequent.

Different Color, Same Soul

By Vanilla Sherry

I packed my suitcases, arrived at the airport, waved to my parents and then went to the security check. Shining under the beautiful warm 2 pm sunlight, the large airplane stood on the ground peacefully. I knew it was time to leave.

I had a hard time making decisions about where to attend school: China or USA? I would have a lot of advantages if I stayed in China. I know my culture better than my peers; I could always teach my friends knowledge about Chinese celebrities and their masterpieces, and then enjoy my friends’ admiration with pride. I am good at writing, which helps me gain attention and thus gives me a lot of confidence in student activities. A lot of things would have been good if I stayed.

But things are also so SETTLED.

White clouds passed and blue sky changed into a dark one with stars like diamonds. The plane flew across the Pacific Ocean. I knew I was about to step into a new land, new country, new experience. I heard a voice shouting loudly in my mind: going outside and learning more are what I always dreamed of.

Step, step, step. I stepped down the stairs, leaving the huge plane behind me — step, step, step, I stepped into Baptist College Church (BCM), an organization that holds a lot of activities for international students during international orientation every semester at UGA. But now there were no familiar faces, no Chinese people, and no even Asian people! I was surprised and didn’t know what to do. Luckily, a man noticed me and shook hands with me: “Welcome! First time at BCM?”

It was the fourteenth day since I came to America. I was still new to the US, surrounded by the big, unfamiliar university. Also, it was my first time taking part in student organization.

“Yes,” I answered with smile, feeling relieved that someone could guide me. “I received a flyer from you about today’s activity…” I said shyly.

“Okay! Welcome! Please go straight and get some food if you like!” He guided me to the table and introduced me to another young girl, pointing to me and saying, “She’s new!” That girl smiled at me and then led me to a big table that was surrounded by several girls.

“Hi girls! This is Vanilla! She’s a freshman and this her first time at BCM!”

I was soon surrounded by girls. We introduced ourselves to each other and talked about many things like majors, hobbies and hometowns. “We are about to play Frisbee. Would you like to join us?” Krisi, a slender girl with blonde hair said to me.

“Yes! I’d love to…but what is Frisbee?” I said with embarrassment.

“Oh, people are divided into two teams and they throw plate to each other. Let’s go. Some guys are playing outside and I will show you how to play!” She smiled and we walked to the field in front of Special Collections Library.

It was my first time playing Frisbee; it was my first time sitting on the warm ground and taking off my shoes, running and jumping on the field. Due to cultural differences, it is impolite to take off shoes in public in China. When my feet touched the soft grass, I almost wanted to shout: “It’s so lovely!


“Yes, it’s lovely to meet someone who shares the same opinions but grows up in different culture.”

It had been a month and a half after I came to USA. The sky turned dark blue with warm wind dancing around my shoulders. Regan was beside me and we smiled to each other.

“How do you say that saying in Chinese? The one you just said,” she said.

“冥冥之中自有天定, which means everything is already arranged by God. Like our meeting –good friends will always meet each other even if we are brought up by different culture.” I said.

Regan and I met through BCM, and we soon found we share a lot of common interests. We have the same attitudes towards life, helping others, and love relationships. We talked about our difficulties in daily life and went to play together. She invited me to my first tailgating event. So many people, young and old, men and women, red and black — but I knew nothing. Regan was always there and introduced everything and everyone she knew to me. So warm — I didn’t feel like I was in a foreign country. I just changed another language to talk to people.

Isn’t that amazing? Different color, but same soul. No matter what culture we come from, we are human at nature. The experience at BCM encouraged me to take part in more activities in campus. Red & Black, NewSource and also Infusion Magazine! I hesitated at first because I didn’t know if I could write in English as well as I did in Chinese. But the core of writing should be the same in all languages, just as the core of friendship will never depend on language and culture. “Vanilla, just do it!” All my new American friends encouraged me.

Working for these three has helped me meet more friends. I met Bonnie in NewSource and talked and talked for several hours! We did share many things in common: our rebellion against fathers in childhood, our curiosity to understand unknown things and our fascination with love stories. Bonnie and other new friends then introduced me to other new activities: Ballroom Dance club, HOPE, Dance Marathon, student-made film clubs, etc. Life expanded in front of me, and I found the same interests and concerns in people from a different culture.

Experiencing all these things, I feel clearer about an idea: we share more similarities than differences. Even though we grow up in different cultures, we are all humans in nature. We all will be happy or upset for a class; we all will be nervous before a test or a public speech; we all have conflicts and happy memories with parents and siblings; we all like making friends and finding our common interests!

Different color, same soul. Many people now only attach importance to the differences, but they ignore that we are all the same in giving love and getting love. I am grateful that I learned it early in my life. I’ve begun to find the true meaning of studying abroad: recognizing similarities in human nature.

Now I’m writing with the warm beautiful 2pm sunlight shining on my hair, with the lovely smell of grass and flowers around me. The sky above my head is as blue as the day I left my home country, but the girl appreciating the sight is more mature now.

Midterms 2014 Recap

2 Untitled


As the voting dwindled down on Tuesday night and election results started coming in, citizens watching the numbers saw that the Republicans were gaining ground in Congress, and were on the way to becoming the majority. At the end of the night, with 47 states’ results entered, it was announced that the GOP had taken control of both the House and the Senate. For the first time in eight years, the GOP had control of Congress, and more importantly, the President did not have the majority on his side.

What This Means: Having a Democratic president and a Republican Congress provokes a lot of concern about whether anything will actually get done, and whether anything will get passed, because of the unending differences in ideology. The Democrats, who are out of the spotlight on Capitol Hill for the first time since 2006, will have to rely heavily on filibustering to stop bills and laws that they don’t agree with, and Obama will most likely be seen vetoing laws in the coming two years. With the opposite party leading Congress, Obama should be expecting Congress to pass controversial bills that he cannot sign as a Democratic president, and Democrats are hoping that the President will exercise his power to block bills more than he has in the past (Obama has not blocked a bill since 2010).

Who To Watch: Keep your eyes on Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative John Boehner. Senator McConnell is widely expected to be the next Senate Majority Leader, and Boehner is the current Speaker of the House of Representatives. Seeing as the leaders of both branches of Congress are finally in the same party, it’s expected that the agenda for the bills they are trying to pass and repeal will be revealed as soon as McConnell is officially made the Majority Leader. However, these leaders released what their main legislative intentions are on November 5th—McConnell and Boehner pledged to spend the next two years doing everything in their power to repeal the Affordable Care Act, politically nicknamed “Obamacare.” The attempt to repeal this will be met with outrageous Democratic opposition in the House, and most importantly with a presidential veto. Even though the GOP is in control of the Senate with 52 seats currently, they would need 60 to override a presidential veto. Therefore, the Republicans have to be very realistic with what they would ideally like to see versus what has a chance of passing on Obama’s desk.

What About Everyone Else? Outside of Washington D.C, gubernational elections showed many Republican victories, not only in close-race states, but also heavily Democratic states such as Illinois (Obama’s home state), Massachusetts, and Maryland. This could spell out trouble for the resolution of major social issues, namely same-sex marriage and abortion laws. Tennessee has already amended their state constitution for stricter anti-abortion laws and their newly elected Republican representative, Courtney Rogers, intends to push for even stricter legislation once the new Congress convenes in 2015. Since the GOP have taken control of governor’s mansions across the nation, liberal issues such as legalization of marijuana will be much more likely to be tabled until the next Congress is selected.

Overall, the Republican sweep at both the national and the state level makes for a busy last two years of Obama’s term in office. Congressional compromise is mandatory if anything is going to be agreed on between a Republican-led Congress and a Democratic President. Luckily, some Republicans that were elected to office were elected on platforms of “compassionate conservatism”—meaning they were willing to adopt slightly more liberal views to ensure not only votes, but also successful terms as Congressmen. The split on Capitol Hill seems to be a cry from voters across the nation to have both parties work together for once and get something done, instead of having the two parties in such strong opposition that the government is unable to function. Since Obama’s election, Republicans have been first in line to blame Obama for the failure of the economy and the lack of results for the American middle class. Now that the Republicans control Congress, they will have no one left to blame if they cannot produce the results they’ve been promising. Though both the Democrats and the GOP have been expressing concern with the lack of compromise between parties in the past, hopefully this election has swept in some Congressmen that have a pragmatic, rational way of leading this country in the upcoming years, and that have a mindset for compromise.

Featured Image is “America Speaks on Key Election Issues” by Yahoo! News, licensed under CC BY 2.0

What We Can Learn From the Nude Photo Leak


Privacy is defined as the state or condition of being free from observation and disturbance by other people. When most people think of privacy, they think of closed doors, quietness, and the choice to protect themselves. Their opinions, thoughts, and secrets are theirs to keep from the world if they so choose.

The idea of privacy has been breached at a new level through the infamous photo leak that happened just a couple weeks ago.

In August, a 4chan user leaked nude photos of more than 60 celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian (as well as ordinary people). These photos circulated at a rate unmatched by any other post on 4chan, and before the end of the day, thousands of people had reposted, screenshotted, and shared these photos through various social media sites. Thousands of people had violated these women’s privacy. Thousands of people had taken away their choice in who gets to see their own bodies. Because of the lack of respect for privacy that was shown, thousands of people committed sex crimes against women of different cultures, jobs, and statuses.

More frightening than the act itself was the backlash from the public. Tweets, status updates, blog posts, articles online — they all said that these women shouldn’t have taken the pictures to begin with, shouldn’t have sent them out to whomever they were directed at, and that this came with the territory of being a celebrity.

The disrespect of these statements is that at their most basic level they blame these women for the actions of thousands of people who violated their bodies and denied them their choice. The lack of sympathy should be discouraging to every person who believes that we each have the right to choose what we do with our body — we, as a society, instead decided to take away several young women’s choices on handling their own bodies. We, as a society, decided that the instant gratification of looking at a young woman’s nude body was more important than the sexual humiliation that these women felt – humiliation that multiplied each time their photos were viewed. We, as a society, took something that they can never get back.

In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American woman to ever win the title of Miss America. For the first time, the idea of beauty was not limited to just white women. Ten months later, Penthouse, a pornographic magazine, published unauthorized photos of a 19-year-old Vanessa Williams in a spread titled Miss America, Oh God, She’s Nude! The publishers paid millions of dollars for these photos without her consent, and in turn started a domino effect of public humiliation for Williams that ultimately forced her to resign as Miss America. We, as a society, took away from her a title she had worked for her entire life in exchange for the instant gratification of seeing her nude body.

Over thirty years later, here we are, taking the same things from young women because our society still lacks self-control and altruism. Unfortunately, most people don’t see it that way. Most people see clicking through a forum online titled “Nude Leaks HERE!!” as harmless, because they weren’t the ones to actually post the photos, and they aren’t sharing them; so really, how much more harm could be done by one person seeing them? However, each individual that makes the conscious choice to click on those links and view those photos is sending a loud, clear message to the victims of the crime, and that message is this: “Your basic human right to the privacy of your own body is not worth suppressing my want to see your naked body.”

Even if the viewers of these leaked photos didn’t mean to do harm, irreparable damage was done to these women’s careers, personal lives, and self-image. To take something from them is to place your worth and desires above theirs’. To place yourself above them creates a barrier of supremacy between you and these women. This idea of supremacy has been the foundation for imposing terrible injustices on people before; we shouldn’t let it happen again.