Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Identities: I Am.

By Emily Wirtz

One of the final projects Traci discussed focuses on diversity in identity. “Our Lives Matter,” a play on the Black Lives Matter campaign withheld the same values, but broadened to encompass an entire student body—not just the black students. “Headshots” were black and white portrait paintings with punches of color—showing the obscured identities of students in the Bronx, while also representing emotions. A collaboration series she is currently working on is entitled “I Am, I Will, I’m Afraid.” This is a collaboration she brought with her.


Ashland University is a predominantly female campus. This was apparent in our first meeting with Molloy. She allowed AU students the opportunity to collaborate with her in a project of our own. The morning before her presentation, we gathered in a CFA art room, filling it with female students. Dr. Cynthia Petry introduced her, and she then introduced her collaboration. Each “I Am” piece preceding had encompassed some trait of the students within it. Portraits were taken and overlapped, creating a single image of multiple people. Quotes beginning with “I am…” “I will…” or “I’m afraid…” were also taken and layered into the portrait, looking something like this (her piece from Wellsville, NY). This then became our “assignment.”




Deciding on our own identities was not a long process. We were all women, many of us in our late adolescent years, and there was one issue that seemed to stick with all of us: gender-based violence. We talked about ourselves and other women we knew who had been through abusive relationships—whether verbal or physical—sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, cat-calling, slut-shaming, and the list goes on. The shocking thing? There wasn’t a single person in the room who didn’t raise her hand when the question “Do you know someone who’s been sexually assaulted?” was asked. That’s a problem, and for whatever reason, as women, that has become our identity. We are targets and victims because we are women. This project became our own personal solution. We are queens of our own lives and our photographs were to look as such. We chose to represent the strength and power that we have as women, even though we are not perceived this way. An image of feminine power? Katy Perry. Granted we didn’t have a crown or scepter, we had the attitude and the pose.



As we await the results of the final project, I think it’s important for us women to live through this strength. We should not have to carry mace or fake a phone call in order to feel safe walking down the side walk. Even Traci expressed her sincere concern for us as young women: “We need to pay attention to violence on women. We need to take back the night…and become inspired to do something more. This piece when it’s finished will have a life. I hope it has power.”


Every one of us has an identity. Every one of us also has an ethnicity, a race, a gender, a class, and a past. How we choose to identify ourselves may or may not be one of those categories. Unfortunately, all too often a stereotype arises from something that makes us who we are. Our race becomes our label, or our gender, sexuality, class, etc. and those labels become how we are identified—not how we identify ourselves. All too often a black man is perceived to have a gun in his pocket instead of a checkbook. A woman dressed in old sweats is perceived to have a food stamps card instead of a teaching license. A man on the streets is seen as a lazy addict instead of a man with a Ph.D. and a family to feed.


Emily Wirtz is an intern and Peace Scholar with the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.


Monday, January 25, 2016

When Did I Become A Latina Caricature?

By María Cardona

I have always been very proud to be Latina. To be Puerto Rican has always seemed liked the highest honor for me. However, I’d never truly been aware of my race, that is, until I came to the states. Between jokes about how I probably live and participate in a drug cartel to people questioning my lack of an accent I suddenly found myself aware of my race and becoming a caricature of what it means to be Hispanic in the eyes of some Americans.



It seems as if everyone wants me to speak with an accent or imitate an American trying to speak Spanish. People clamor for me to say “something in Spanish,” they wonder if I like spicy foods, if I dance. If I’m a little too loud or sassy “It must be that Puerto Rican blood.” Every time the topic of drugs comes up it seems as if all eyes are on me, because as the Hispanic I must know all about it. They seem to think my country is filled with famine, poverty and sickness. It’s a shock to some that we are, indeed, part of the 21st Century.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Loving Our Enemies

By John Stratton

When Jesus challenged us to love our enemies, I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to carpet bomb them.


It is tough to love people we fear, our enemies. Do we even know what the word love means in this context? Are we required to like our enemies? Are we being asked to buy them cotton candy at the county fair? 

Certainly we are not required to be “know” them in the Biblical sense, in the current version of the word “love.” So is this love some kind of Agape love, a distant god-like love?

It’s all very nice to quote Jesus hypothetically, but it is tough to consider what “love our enemies” means when we are talking about actual people and actual fear, people who actually want to hurt us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Identities: Parents

By Emily Wirtz


Visiting artist Traci Malloy's presentation on Oct. 8 continued with her work on collaborative art. After September 11th, a significant amount of young children were left without a parent, and many of them didn’t know why. How was a mother to tell her kindergartener that daddy was killed at work by a hijacked plane? It’s not an easy conversation to have, and it’s not an easy concept for a child to grasp. For this reason, America’s Camp was started.

She explains how difficult it was to see these kids, devastated and confused by a tragedy so far beyond their understanding, trying to cope. Her collaboration with these children was eye-opening, if hard on the heart. During the years of America’s Camp, she and the children created a quilt, postcards, a paper mache phoenix and a variety of drawings. One of her projects opened up to be an incredibly powerful piece of artwork, surprising even her.

In introducing this piece, she first delved into a bit of Greek mythology. Pandora’s Box is quite often a misinterpreted story. The first woman on earth was given a box by Zeus. Pandora opened the box, letting forth all of the evils and death of the world. Frantically closing it, Pandora unknowingly trapped hope inside. “Pandora’s Lantern” is based off of this story. Like a giant Chinese lantern, the panels of this piece of artwork fold in and out, containing the drawings of the kids of America’s Camp. Within the lantern is light, showing the hope these children have for their own futures, along with a recording of the children’s voices, naming their parents and their hopes. The hope left in Pandora’s Box is exposed and radiating in these kids.

Traci reflected that the drawings the campers made for each project grew more and more vibrant and visually hopeful throughout the years and until America’s Camp was no longer—victims’ children were no longer children. Her artwork brought joy and life back into the hearts of tragedy. The children were no longer the children of victims, but the children of mothers and fathers. They were not labeled as victims of tragedy, but were identified as bearers of light and hope.

Every one of us has an identity. Every one of us also has an ethnicity, a race, a gender, a class, and a past. How we choose to identify ourselves may or may not be one of those categories. Unfortunately, all too often a stereotype arises from something that makes us who we are. Our race becomes our label, or our gender, sexuality, class, etc. and those labels become how we are identified—not how we identify ourselves. All too often a black man is perceived to have a gun in his pocket instead of a checkbook. A woman dressed in old sweats is perceived to have a food stamps card instead of a teaching license. A man on the streets is seen as a lazy addict instead of a man with a Ph.D. and a family to feed. 



Emily Wirtz is an intern and Peace Scholar with the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Fourteen Going on 40: An Open Letter to the First Man to Call Me Beautiful



By Anonymous

“Mia bella,” you said. “I love you.”

It made me uneasy. When you told me to say it back, I was afraid. When you told me not to tell, I was terrified. If I said five years later I’m not scared anymore, I would be lying. I’m suspicious of any man who’s not significantly younger than I am. 

For five years now, plus one day, you’ve overtaken me. You’ve bitten my nails and gritted my teeth and carved deep into my skin. 




You taught me that love was controlling. Love was fear and anxiety and depression. It was giving in and giving up. It was lying and fake smiles and falling grades. Love was hating myself. It was falling asleep on the bathroom floor. It was shamefully leaving every meal to bow down to the toilet bowl and watch the numbers on the scale go up and down.

You taught me that keeping secrets was better than walking into school to get shoved into lockers and called a slut and a whore and a home-wrecker. Keeping secrets was better than getting dumped. Keeping secrets was better than watching myself become a news story.

Keeping secrets was better than being blamed for my stupidity. Keeping secrets was better than watching my dad cry.

You taught me what a sociopath was. You taught me how a predator’s eyes shine with insatiable hunger.

You taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know yet.

But you also taught me empathy.

You taught me how to see past another person’s defenses because I had built up so many of my own. Fighting back was not an option, at least not a good one. You taught me that it is better to meet insults with kind words, anger with happiness, and stubbornness with patience.

Working myself up to bring someone else down isn’t worth it.

You taught me to see fear behind bright eyes. But you also taught me to see light and naivety behind dark suspicion.

Most importantly, you taught me to teach myself.

I’ve learned how to be the bigger, better person. I’ve learned how to cry and not feel ashamed. I’ve learned that I’m not fighting this battle alone; I’m striving for a world without fight.

I’ve learned that wounds heal, and while scars don’t disappear, they certainly fade and there comes a time when they’re no longer a reminder of the past, but of the future I chose to have.

I’ve learned to stand up for myself. I’ve learned to be myself.

I’ve learned that you taught me the wrong meaning of “I love you.” He’s kind, and caring, and sees beyond the countless walls I’ve built up. He knows my past and who I am. He taught me the meaning of “I love you,” and it is not full of shame and secrets.

I’ve learned to open up. It’s not so bad to put myself out there sometimes. As horribly cliché as it is, every time the sun sets it promises to rise again in the morning. Darkness doesn’t last forever. I’ve learned that.

Life should not be a power struggle, but it often is. The thing is though, I have to have power over myself. My life is not about you, it’s about me. Growing up isn’t easy on the calendar’s time. It’s even harder when forced to grow up faster. Even then…maturity isn’t such a bad thing. Sometimes bad things aren’t always bad things. They’re opportunities to grow and see the strength that was already there. You’ve given me opportunities not to fight the world, but to try and save it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Peace means Community

By John Stratton

Last night (Dec 8) about fifty people—students and community members—gathered around the flag pole on the AU campus for a silent vigil remembering the victims of mass shootings. It was mostly silent. There was some chatting, some singing, and a little speaking, but it was a time of reflection on the shootings that are filing the newscasts and the headlines.


We lit candles, but it was hard to keep them lit in the chilly breeze. We turned to each other to relight them, and often the candle that had just been relit was used to relight the other candle that had itself just gone out.

That lighting, relighting, and relighting of the candles is a powerful metaphor for community. We lit and relit each other's candles without thinking that in another moment our candle would need to be relit. We kept the community bright, not by building a single giant candle but by keeping all the candles lit. We held back the darkness because we each were holding candles and helping others keep their candles going.

We were a small group acting out, in a small way, the meaning of community. It is a model for all us—to light and relight each other's candles, while knowing that someone will relight ours if we need it.


John Stratton is a member of the steering committee and emeritus director of ACN.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Prerequisite for Peace

By Andrew Kinney

Tonight, on Ashland University’s quad, we’ll gather to honor the victims of violence and make silent protest to recent threats of violence. Prayer and community can be powerful strategies in times of terror.


The recent uproar over “prayer shaming” (we would do well to recognize our own constant struggles moving from good intention to appropriate action) misunderstands the purpose and function of prayer. Still, in this time of social upheaval and national angst, those of us who pray may wonder if we’re doing it right. We may wonder if we are talking, like Ginsberg, to ourselves again.