Thursday, February 26, 2015

Unchained, Unbroken

By Emily Wirtz

Recently, during the final weekend of January, amidst the chaos and costume of Ohayocon, members Ashland Women’s Chorus had the opportunity to travel to the Ohio State University to participate in the CONCEPT: Freedom Choral Festival. To raise awareness and funds for human trafficking and its prevention, OSU hosted the choral festival over a three-day period, consisting of a screening of Very Young Girls, a Women’s Glee club performance, featured speakers, a photography exhibit, “Unchained” fashion show, and CONCEPT: Freedom.

Kristina MacMullen, who also contributed to many other aspects of the program, was centrally the director of the CONCEPT: Freedom Chorus group, putting together a collection of three pieces, sung by multiple groups who had never before sung together in the span of a three-hour morning rehearsal. The pieces, “Untraveled Worlds,” “Will There Really Be a Morning?,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” were all incredibly moving, their subject matter consisting of breaking through bonds and adversity—the overall message of the program.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

#TheSelmaProject – Racist Normativity

By Emily Wirtz

Selma—both the movie and the city—has raised a lot of thought-provoking questions, some of which have clear answers: Yes, racism does still exist. Some questions, on the other hand, remain pretty vague: I don’t know, what do we do about it? While I don’t have an answer as to how we go about knocking down racism in its entirety with a single hit, I do have a proposal. We need to talk about it—not just “we” as Americans, but we as Caucasian Americans who somehow still believe we live in a world of equality. We have to stop acting like racism doesn’t exist, or at least like it doesn’t affect us, and we have to start becoming aware. “Well, what the heck does it mean to be aware of it?” Listen, and in time, speak.
When I was in high school, I dated a guy for a short period of time—we’ll call him Phil. White, blonde hair, blue eyes, middle-class guy who listened to punk rock and country music. Country music was big. Austintown is barely a twenty minute drive to the Canfield Fair Grounds, which holds the largest county fair in Ohio and always has at least one country artist playing that week, only about 40 minutes from the Dusty Armadillo, Ohio’s leading country bar/club, and about 20 minutes away from Yankee Lake, which hosts Y.L. Truck Night every Friday in the summer. Now, I’m sure I don’t speak for everyone, but truck night was a little off-putting to me when I finally tagged along with Phil. Granted, I don’t at all mind watching a line of drunken people dance to Cotton-Eyed Joe, or the monster truck school bus go mudding, or even the occasional decent-sounding band. What I minded was the incredible number of rebel flags on display. “I don’t think that means what you think it means…” They were everywhere.

Friday, February 6, 2015

#TheSelmaProject – The Movie and the Aftermath

By Emily Wirtz

After Dr. C.T. Vivian’s extraordinary visit, the Ashland community was moved by his passion, stories, and testimonies to the cruelties of racism and segregated persecution. Those on both ends of the activist spectrum—those who criticized Vivian’s bias on racism as well as those inspired to change the presence of racism—spoke out. “Not all white people are racist.” True. “Racism doesn’t really exist anymore.” Doesn’t it? “I’m not privileged because I’m Caucasian.” Are you sure? His discussion clearly brought about a variety of opinions from all ethnic and race groups in the community and here on campus. A week later, a few faculty members and students came together with the Diversity Group and Student Affairs to drive through Sunday’s blizzard and into Selma.

I’d never been to Mansfield’s Cinemark, and I’d thoroughly enjoyed the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. event, so “why not?” I dragged my roommates out into the snow, bribing them with promises of popcorn and pizza and a free movie. They joined me, half-enthused by my desire to save the world by watching history unfold on the big screen. I’m glad they came. So, we hoarded into a van of people we didn’t know, bought some popcorn, and sat down for the always-exciting previews. Two minutes into the movie, the roommate to my left was in tears and she to my right was wide-eyed and watching intently as the camera zoomed in on the bodies of four little girls crushed and intertwined in a mound of church remains. Two hours later, we’d had the experience of witnessing MLK, C.T. Vivian, and LBJ make history. I’ve talked about history books and the distance they create—and they do. A factual, emotionless description of such events sometimes makes me question both the heart of the author and that of myself as an unmoved reader, but such is the way of a text book. A dramatic, emotionally-fueled account of America’s painful history, brought to life with real voices, untouchable filmography, and Oprah revokes all questions because a text book is a text book, but the history contained within holds such an incredible amount of pain, pride, failure, and triumph, any American History book editor would be brought to tears.