06 August 2010

Charitable genus or over zealous soliciting?

My roommate today brought up "The Giving Pledge" while I was putting tremendous effort and while simultaneously reaping little benefit as I struggled my way through the wii fit obstacle course game. I would think it very likely that she was trying to distract me from obliterating her previously achieved scores, if the truth wasn't that I still had yet to even finish a level on that particular game.

I was honestly looking for any excuse to be able to pause the game and still retain what little dignity I had left and took her mention of this seemingly generous fairy-tale like offer of benevolence as my escape rope.

Here's the scope on "The Giving Pledge": the wealthiest people in America are being asked to pledge to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes and organizations of their choice.

I'm not sure why this bothers me because the reality is that I am poor and you would think I would be happy with what this could mean for people in my same situation or worse.

Yet the bigger reality is that I cannot help but think that this demands too much. Yes the rich are rich and it is easy--especially with this economy to hate them for it--but I just can't.

I've thought about it and if I could be rich I would and I would hope I would remember my roots and be kind to those who need it most. Even so I cannot not say I dislike the rich for being rich really, because we can't all be poor. Could you imagine an America were everyone is impoverished? It's a horrifying thought and I don't think it's what any of us want.

Now, I'm not arguing that the rich shouldn't be charitable--I think they should--the point I'm stressing is it's not realistic to think every or even half of America's elite population is going to want to pledge the majority of their wealth and in fact it irks me to think that not only do we want to demand that they give, we want to tell them how to donate their own money.

It is important to remember that not all of the wealthy people in America are old money, there is plenty of nouveau riche who have worked hard--at least semi-hard--to make their fortune and frankly who would want to donate half of their wealth even if they are a a triple-platinum billionaire? Only a saint and their aren't to many of those left in the world.

It's easy to have all the opinions, and to criticize someone else's plan but it's a little harder to actually come up with a feasible alternative plan. For what it's worth I do have something in mind and will gladly share it if the readers of this fake column of mine promise to hold their applause until the very end.

If the wealthy would agree to donate a lump sum of money, even perhaps below a million dollars, that money could be put into creating a local business that would be able to not only sustain itself fully without any other support from the initial donor could create jobs, stimulate the economy and also donate the majority of it's profit to specific charitable organizations. It seems to me that smart choices create even smarter solutions and with the right motivation and attitude a lot can be done with a little. This plan could actually please everyone; the rich stay rich, while the poor simultaneously become less poor.

I'm sure some economist like my good friend Patricia, is going to come a long and find enough wholes in my theory to make my idea resemble swiss cheese, but I think this idea is a solid start and a decent model of finding a solution that benefits all parties.

Perhaps I like playing the devil's advocate but I enjoy a good debate. I like how it makes the wheels turn in my dusty vacant brain and in this instance I think their are many sides to consider and plenty of alternative options to be had.

03 August 2010

Pens Without Ink

I have a little project going on "write" now. :)

Pens Without Ink is a facebook group I started a few months back. I had this idea that it would be great to connect with other writers and to discuss writing topics, our pieces, or anything really.

I'm so passionate about writing that I felt like I wanted to be connected via through the web to other writers who shared my love for creativity and writing. I feel very fortunate to be able to write and I would like to give back to the writing community. Of course this little project is really so small it's actually minuscule but there is a small hand of pens without ink members who want to meet up monthly or bi-monthly to chat about writing. I'm really excited and I hope that this group/club will give me the opportunity to do something really great for other aspiring writers.

So I'll keep posting updates on how that is going on my own blog, and if you're interested in getting involved or participating in some of the writing activities or challenges that Pens Without Ink will sponsor in the future be sure to either find us on Facebook, or follow the blog I've created: Pens Without Ink .


The Versatile Blogger Award

I woke up this morning achy from the previous days wii fit extravaganza and decide to post pone my morning workout for a little while longer. I booted up my net book and to my surprise found a message telling me I had received the "Versatile Blogger" award from Ms Ulat Buku; that so made my day!

Now the next step is for me to pass this award on to 5 more bad ass bloggers, along with posting 7 things about myself. Here goes:

1. I only like marshmallows when they are completely burned through and charred.
2. Yesterday instead of writing, I procrastinated and read the entire novel "Girl with a Pearl Earring".
3. I drink slim fast in the mornings because I'm too lazy to prepare myself any other type of meal.
4. I have a pet goldfish named tiger that I brought with me from my hometown when I transferred to GVSU four years ago.
5. For some reason I got really excited about the fight scene between the two aliens in the new Predator movie.
6. I like to be liked.
7. I'm embarrassed by how much I have to go to the bathroom now that I started drinking 64oz of water a day.

I hope that wasn't TMI...I know I said my blog entries might become more personal but maybe that was too personal...too soon. :)

I'm going to share this award with:

1. Pink-Collar Harlot
2. See Jayne Blog!
3. Wendie's Wanderings
4. The Shopping Sherpa
5. Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom

Thanks!! Please pass on the award!


28 June 2010

Hello! I've been gone for a while. Finals were a killer, and then I immediately launched into my spring semester where i took two, six-week long courses which of course led to more finals last week. I'm finally done with school and have the next 6-8 weeks off until the fall semester starts..only they're not really "off" because I'm working on some major creative pieces. There's been some changes, I no longer write for the lanthorn and I'm sabatical from suite101.com, but I'm still alive and writing and I just might turn this blog into something more personal and start sharing some of my creative work on here. Stay tuned for more updates sooon :).


20 April 2010

Bad dancer but good bacon provider

Bad dancer but good bacon provider

By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

Never in my life have I seen anything as awkward as Kate Gosselin lumbering across a dance floor. I was sucked in to watching "Dancing with the Stars" again this season -- similar to the other thousand viewers -- due to ABC's promised star lineup. Even if Kate doesn't have her dance routines figured out yet, she definitely has the role of a good mom down pat.

I was first "introduced" to Kate via her TV show on TLC, "Jon and Kate Plus 8," and frankly I didn't like her. She barked orders to her husband and was impatient with her children.

As I watched episode after episode, Kate's need for order and neatness was her worse offense to me. This was probably because I'm a junky myself -- don't worry, readers, I've taken the necessary steps to put my disorderly past behind me and I have been clean for one semester now.

Later while watching "Extra," I would find myself even more displeased and scrunching up my nose at the TV when I saw the "Extra" edition announcing Kate to appear as a dancing sensation on "Dancing With the Stars" -- how can she be a mother when the show is taped on the other side of the country?

Before I judged her too harshly -- since we're in the era of Obama and diplomatic thinking -- I put on my mom hat and really thought about what it would be like to have 8.5 children. (I counted her ex-husband Jon as half a child because he's always either having a mid-life crisis or a tantrum) After thinking about it what I realized was that eight kids is eight more than I'd ever want. Kate has to be the way she is in order to maintain any kind of sanity.

I never use to believe this, but moms really don't harp just because they want to. Kate wasn't nagging her husband and strict with her kids because it was fun, she did it in an attempt to maintain some kind of method to get what was needed done.

Even though we live in much more liberal times, we still have this mentality that when a woman has children she needs to be home with them -- period. Our society is especially strict on women who have children any age younger than their middle to late teens. We expect moms to be moms and that means self-sacrifice to the fullest, and a lot of people think Kate should be home raising her children.

But here's another side to this argument. The Gosselins made their money from their original TV show and Jon's job as a computer technician. The show's success made it possible for them to move into a bigger house -- which they needed and deserved.

We've got to remember that the flip side to having more money is that you generally spend it and that gives you larger bills. After the divorce, their finances drastically changed and the novel and TV appearances are a way for Kate to support her family.

We can throw stones at Kate for her being away from her family if we'd like, but she's doing what a single mom should be doing -- working.

The bacon doesn't bring itself home.


12 April 2010

Will Never Be

Will Never Be

I will never be white?
I will never be white—
what I am(black and white)will never become who I am.

will never be
will never be

My mother sees me as a
piece of herself as a
piece of her white heritage,
how can I be her but will never be her?

I will never be white and, oh,
oh!—how I use to want to be;
use to want to be in an easier life
use to want to be that girl with straight hair
use to want to be the me I felt inside
the me I thought was good enough—
good enough to be white.

will never be
will never be

But I will never be as kind as my blue-eyed-white
brother who has always gave
me whole love and never half
and saw me as I am—his sister.

Nor will I ever be as kind as my brown-eyed-brown
father who will always give
me whole love and never half
and saw me as I am—his daughter.

my green-eyed-mother
my brown-eyed-sisters
i’ll never be wanting me to be more
than who I am—

who I am will stay the same
regardless of what I look like
or what I behave like
or what I am labeled like.
For who I am—thankfully—is not defined by
what I never will be
but by what I already am.

**Printed in the "Lanthorn Literary Edition" 4/12/2010

11 April 2010

Happy Hour - shots of common sense

Happy Hour - shots of common sense

By Nicole E. Avery

GVL Columnist

There are a couple sayings I've always remembered when it comes to drinking: never drink alone and don't drink when you're upset.

Everyone makes mistakes and as cliche of a statement as that is, we all know it to be correct. Another thing we know to be true is that we are responsible for the choices we make and the good, the bad or ugly that might result from that choice.

We do things we are not supposed to do all the time. We lie, steal, cheat and there are consequences for those actions that we're aware of and accept.

So then why, when it comes to college students and drinking, drugs and unplanned pregnancies, do we as a society take the blame from the person who made that specific choice and put it on the of community effort in making general "awareness" more prevalent?

The front cover of the Lanthorn last Thursday talked about college drinking being used as a way for students to deal with stress and one of the experts interviewed put emphasis on the students' actions often being without the knowledge that drinking can lead to addiction and that alcohol is a substance that is easily and often abused.

It was a good article and mentioned the importance of programs that bring awareness to the negative affects of irresponsible decisions through substance and alcohol abuse.

Yet after reading, I felt there is a lack of accountability being put on the college students who make the decision to drink in the first place.

College students by definition of their title are in college to be students -- not party animals. Neither their parents (nor the government for that matter) pay for their education so they can rot their teeth and brain cells away on sweet mixed drinks, hearty vodka blends and deliciously toxic jungle juice.

I also don't believe for a moment there is a lack of awareness to the effects of alcohol.

Alcohol abuse and drinking and driving are among some of the most controversial issues regularly discussed in the media and politics. Warnings and examples of the harmful affects of heavy drinking are prevalent in commercials, ads and in some cases even in our own families and own friends.

There are two things college drinking to relieve stress boils down to: common sense and choice.

Fact: Everyone on a college campus is stressed.

Fact: There are other ways to relieve stress besides drinking until you black out or so often that you get behind on your school work and begin to fail courses.

Since I'm a female writer I'm sure some of you are going to read this and accuse me of trying to "mom" the student body of Grand Valley State University, which I'm not, but you'd probably rather hear this from me than your own mother.

We need to get our stuff together. We're better than vomiting every night in bushes outside of apartment complexes or waking up in a bathtub similar to Ke$ha in "Tik Tok."

Common sense must play a pivotal factor in when people make decisions. You can only use the, "I was young and stupid" card for so long and trust me, it's already gotten old.


Yet after reading, I felt there is a lack of accountability being put on the college students who make the decision to drink in the first place.

College students by definition of their title are in college to be students -- not party animals. Neither their parents (nor the government for that matter) pay for their education so they can rot their teeth and brain cells away on sweet mixed drinks, hearty vodka blends and deliciously toxic jungle juice.

I also don't believe for a moment there is a lack of awareness to the effects of alcohol.

Alcohol abuse and drinking and driving are among some of the most controversial issues regularly discussed in the media and politics. Warnings and examples of the harmful affects of heavy drinking are prevalent in commercials, ads and in some cases even in our own families and own friends.

There are two things college drinking to relieve stress boils down to: common sense and choice.

Fact: Everyone on a college campus is stressed.

Fact: There are other ways to relieve stress besides drinking until you black out or so often that you get behind on your school work and begin to fail courses.

Since I'm a female writer I'm sure some of you are going to read this and accuse me of trying to "mom" the student body of Grand Valley State University, which I'm not, but you'd probably rather hear this from me than your own mother.

We need to get our stuff together. We're better than vomiting every night in bushes outside of apartment complexes or waking up in a bathtub similar to Ke$ha in "Tik Tok."

Common sense must play a pivotal factor in when people make decisions. You can only use the, "I was young and stupid" card for so long and trust me, it's already gotten old.


06 April 2010

Watch out for the big, bad LGBT cliques

Watch out for the big, bad LGBT cliques

By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

Remember the cliques and stereotypes we were all so desperately ready to escape when we went to college -- jocks, Barbies, geeks, weirdos and in-betweeners? They are the same cliques our parents faced and the same cliques our own children must tackle.

What I don't remember in high school was the administration fearing the manifestation of cliques into intimidating masses and then tackling that problem by not allowing anyone to socialize.

Cliques are exactly the reason why the LGBT Resource Center is no longer allowing students to "meet-up and socialize" in its lounge area.

The article in the Grand Valley Lanthorn said the LGBT staff has made every effort to comfort students and support them in understanding the changes made to the LGBT Center policies -- what?

Typically, you support someone in a choice they have made, not a choice you force them to make.

What exactly was going on in the LGBT Center that would warrant such a drastic change? Were people actually comfortable socializing in there, enjoying each others' company? Were they freely and openly discussing important issues that would generally be deemed taboo?

I'm describing what should be the function of the LGBT Center. Its whole purpose is to provide resources, space and a safe haven to the LGBT community, and now the groups of people for whom it was meant to be a support system can't even go in there unless they have "official business."

The assistant director of the Grand Valley State University LGBT Resource Center claimed the LGBT Center is still "completely committed to having any conversation that is needed with our students."

Something that was once extremely personal has become as phony and meaningless. I'm really interested in seeing how this policy is going to really play out. Is the LGBT Center going to give a time limit as to how long it's willing to have "conversations" with students and then give them a pamphlet and send them on their way?

What I like about centers such as the LGBT Resource Center and the Woman's Center is their open-door policy, their attentiveness, the accepting, comfortable and safe atmosphere and their willingness to help in any way they can.

What's wrong with having a group of regulars that comes in every Monday to sit down and chat it up, and why would those groups then be deemed intimidating or disruptive?

There's nothing wrong with it. In my mind a newcomer would feel more put off if they see an empty center with tumble weeds blowing by than if they saw a group of cheerful students comfortably conversing with one another.

Perhaps the problem is the center needs to expand and have two separate areas: one strictly for "business" and the other for all of us socialites who just can't help but be friendly.

"Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it." -- David Henry Thoreau


25 March 2010

Remakes bring fresh look to old classics

Remakes bring fresh look to old classics

By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

I've noticed lately that there has been a lot of creative tweaking to old classic movies and novels.

Since I am a nerdy bookworm, the first example of this practice that pops up into my mind is the numerous editions of Jane Austen's famous novel "Pride and Prejudice."

There are endless spin-offs to all of Austen's novels but versions of the story of "Pride and Prejudice" outrank them all.

Some center on the fictitious children of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy while others devote themselves to exploring the sexual relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy as newlyweds.

Still, turning the romance in Austen's novels into a dirty smut-fest wasn't taken as controversially as the addition of zombie mayhem to the original plot of "Pride and Prejudice." This literary union between Austen and zombies festered into the prequel "Dawn of the Dreadfuls," a novel by Steve Hockensmith, which explores the town of Meryton before the arrival of Mr. Darcy.

Everyone but me, of course, was upset. I appreciated these novels for what they were and found the fight scenes very clever and funny. Reading these books made me want to compare them to the originals, and it became an excuse for me to read the original classic over again.

What is perhaps even more shocking than the revisions of these classics is the fact they're actually good. All of the zombie books published by Quirk Books are quick, fun reads that I enjoy.

Another recent revision was of Lewis Carol's novel, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" into Tim Burton's movie "Alice in Wonderland," which featured the same lovable characters but a twist -- Alice was older and this was her second trip to Wonderland. I saw the movie, and it was fantastically charming and creative, and I did appreciate the very realistic effects of our progressed technology.

The Mad Hatter played by Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's revision tells Alice she "has lost her muchness." Is the face that we are remaking classics a sign that we have lost our muchness?

I don't think we have.

Remaking movies, writing prequels or sequels to novels is just another side of creativity and is really asserting our own confidence that our generation can, if not do it better, at least make it relatable to our own era.

Authorial intent has given way to readers' or viewers' interpretation and expectations. Movies rarely stay verbatim to the book, which has become not only accepted but expected. We trust the movie to explore the "what-if" sections of the book so why not let another author do the same?

Everyone should just relax. No one is banned from reading the original "Pride and Prejudice." The old idea isn't eliminated by the new one.


01 March 2010

Prejudice -- inherent and learned?

By Nicole E. Avery

GVL Columnist

This term at Grand Valley State University, I'm taking a class called Social Class Inequality. It's a tough one. The topics are controversial and the ideas are hard to grasp, let alone swallow. I like the class though because it makes me think.

This week we signed up for group projects in pairs and picked from a list different topics. Each topic had two main arguable positions. Many of them caught my eye, but one in particular got my wheels turning: prejudice.

You're thinking to yourself that of course it was. Ideologies of racism and prejudice are at the top of controversial subjects you do not want to bring up at dinner when you're meeting someone's parents.

What intrigued me about prejudice and racism being one of the topics was the two arguable points attached with it -- A: learned and B: human nature. When you're beginning to unpack this loaded gun of an idea, you must first acknowledge that they are two separate branches of the same tree -- they are not the same. Prejudice isn't limited to the confines of race whereas racism is by definition. Ironically enough, even if they are not the same, prejudice can and does lead to racism.

No one would argue racism is not learned by some people. A racist father can lead to racist sons and grandchildren but everything can be counteracted by choice. If the daughter of a racist mother decides she does not agree with the ideologies of her family, she breaks that cycle of thought by exhibiting her free will to not think the way her parents have taught her to think.

What is even more interesting is the idea that prejudice is a part of human nature, and I would agree with that argument wholeheartedly.

From the moment we are born and begin to learn, we are socialized to categorize things.

As children we are trained to match colors and taught the ability to pick out the object from a group of that doesn't belong.

Children are thought beautiful when they resemble their parents and teased that they are adopted when they do not.

Everyone thinks their grandma's cooking is the best even when it isn't and every American proudly brags about their non-American heritage.

There seems to be an innate human need to find meaning in everything and that leads to over-categorizing even the simplest things. Even a silverware drawer is grouped by like objects.

Of course these things aren't bad alone but when they are combined with pride, somehow they get distorted into reasons of why X human is better than Y human or why this quality is better than that and these ideas snowball into full-blown prejudices and racism.

Is it really a stretch from wanting to be in a particular high school group to wanting elevated social status to then thinking you're better than an immigrant or someone who is poor?

No, when you think about it this way it actually make a lot of sense and shows how we are our own worst enemies.


25 February 2010

Revolutionizing the Publishing Industry

I recently wrote an article for suite101.com about the changes being made in the publishing industry. The EBM or Espresso Book Machine is a printing, binding and distributing station. I was excited to write about this topic after being inspired by my WRT 495 capstone class. We have been discussing Genre Theories and the evolution of print on demand came up in my class. The EBM affects the publishing industry completely. The whole print on demand concept opens avenues for more than just publishers to publish books. We've already seen an expansion of self-publishing through places like lulu.com, but the EBM in away even surpasses norms for the self-publishing author because it always anyone to print any .pfd file from any EBM location. This means small businesses no longer have to spend extra money on books that have a slow turn around, libraries will be able to have more copies of rarer books for cheaper prices, and schools and other educational institutions will be able to offer more resources to their communities. This is an exciting time for the reader and the writer. I hope you like the article, be sure to check out the embedded link because it takes you two a youtube.com video where you can see just exactly how the magic happens. Enjoy!

Espresso Machines are No Longer Just for Coffee

22 February 2010

Why I talk about being biracial

Why I talk about being biracial

By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

An apology by definition is either a form of justifying one's actions, defending them or an admission of remorse. This column is none of the above but rather a in-depth description of my own writing process.

There has been some annoyance and acceptance from Lanthorn readers about my habitual mention of my biracial heritage in past columns.

There was an assumption in a comment on the Lanthorn Web site that I wrote last week about stereotypes because I was either made to by my editor, I couldn't think of anything else to write about or because I take any possible chance to mention that I'm biracial.

None of these reasons are true.

I make it a habit to read the Lanthorn and other news and if I can, I try to write about something that stirs any kind of emotion in me. If it raises a question in my mind, such as whether or not a stereotype can be seen as positive, I pursue it and try to offer a tangible discussion and possible answer in my column.

There are two other main reasons why I mention my ethnicity in my columns: it is my personal life experience and provides an enriching point of view and insight other people might be interested in because it is different from their own, and out of admiration and respect for my parents. I owe it to them and myself to not be ashamed of who I am.

For me, mentioning my heritage is as natural as telling someone my name and my favorite color. I'm very comfortable with talking about myself and that openness is displayed in my columns when I reference my family, friends, relationships or personal struggles.

In many ways, mentioning the fact I am biracial and talking about the issues that come with being both white and black is therapy for my soul. Talking about who I am helps me accept and understand myself better not only as a writer but as a person. I strongly believe to know myself is to love myself.

When it comes to race I believe it is an individual's choice what they identify with, but it isn't always that simple. Everyone still has to deal and cope with the way they are perceived regardless of whether you are a minority or not.

I could refer to myself simply as being black or African-American and that would be acceptable by the black community and is also commonly done.

If I were in the south even as few as 20 years ago, I would have been considered black even though my mother is white. However, I was raised to identify with both races and that is what I do. To not mention one, for me, is omitting a part of myself and I simply cannot and will not do that.

This is me. Either accept it or don't read it.


Enjoy lack of substance in year of the Tiger

Enjoy lack of substance in year of the Tiger

By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columinst

This is my year according to the Chinese zodiac calendar and I -- similar to the rest of the people born in '86 -- gladly bear the marks of the tiger.

According to the characteristics of the Tiger sign, I am lively, lucky, resilient and self-sufficed, but there's another Tiger who outshines the rest of us, even though this should by right be our year.

I heard it on the radio Friday while riding on the CV to Grand Valley State University shuttle bus to Kirkhof that Tiger Woods had publicly apologized to his wife and fans for his unsolicited behavior.

The radio personalities of this particular sports channel commented that without being adorned head to foot in sports logos, Tiger was a mere shadow of the man he once was.

Woods had multiple affairs -- how many celebrities haven't had affairs? Mostly the least known and least attractive ones I would presume.

This is old news. Why are we still talking about this? Is it because Tiger checked into rehab and absence has made the fans and paparazzi grow fonder of trying to get the scoop on what Tiger does next?

I love how when men cheat, they go to rehab. When women cheat -- well, let's just say they become labeled in a way that might as well plaster a large scarlet letter on their chest.

It's the curse of the double standard -- and we know it well. Men can do it and woman can only complain about men doing it, and the thrill of celebrity sexual liaisons has enabled Tiger to outshine all other world news even when he isn't in the public eye.

Here's the kicker: it isn't just affairs that draw us in like moths to the flame of bad TV reality shows. It's anything and everything that is without substance or quality. There is just something undeniably alluring about being interested in useless information or personal information about people that doesn't really matter because it doesn't change our daily lives.

I wish I could say we should all stop caring about stupid things that make no sense or do not matter, but I like pictures of cats jammed into infant-sized overalls with funny, phonetically spelled sentences in white bold font stamped on them.

Perhaps these useless things do have a function -- even if it is minute. They do make people laugh, give people something to gossip about and for a moment even possibly engage strangers in conversation when they would have otherwise been glued to their iPods or Zunes.

Overzealously practical people might argue that all time must be spent doing something productive, but I think perhaps we should every now and then leave practicality on the shelf and, for our sanity, do something meaningless.

Life is hard, college is tough and to avoid being stuck in a mental rut people need to idly talk about things that take few neurons to understand.


17 February 2010

Disney stirred up the gumbo pot

Disney stirred up the gumbo pot

By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

Even with their unrealistic views of hair, men, parenting and relationships, just about everyone likes Disney movies.

I grew up on Disney VHS tapes and my childhood would not have been complete without my sister and me preforming renditions of the pivotal scene from Bambi where Bambi's mother is shot while trying to flee from the field back into the woods.

It is no wonder then that I was excited when I heard Disney was producing a fully hand-drawn animated new movie starring black characters. I was thrilled for the long overdue representation the movie would give the black community, but when I heard it was set in New Orleans, it was no wonder why I was immediately skeptical.

All I could see in my mind was a fantastically drawn narrations of spicy Creoles and evil dark-skinned voodoo witch doctors-- I was pretty accurate except for the fact that Disney kept all the characters in the middle realm of brown skin tones.

I saw the movie, and this, in a nutshell is how Disney paints a model for the African American woman-- hard working, religious, respectful women who aren't afraid to "tell it like it is".

How completely two dimensional. Is this another instance of the menacing positive stereotype?

Issues with this movie go a little deeper than that. The problem is not with the idea of a positive stereotypes being rejected, but with the idea that someone can be labeled a race and then summed up to have a specific quality.

Another major problem was the plot: a girl from a poor family works two jobs in order to save up enough money to where she can cook her father's gumbo recipe and serve it to the community. Essentially she wants to live out the dream her father was never able to accomplish. Is this sending the message the black: women are limited to desiring only to fulfill dreams that have already been dreamt by the men in their families?

Some would argue this portrays a realistic picture of the specific time period of the movie-- black people were underprivileged, were poor and did struggle.

True, but is that the only truth we are to perpetually keep on living? I want to see hopeful things, positive change and progression, and don't scapegoat on the time period. It is not necessary to show a black character whose prize possession is a beat-up gumbo pot, doesn't speak proper English and is content with having no aspirations of her own.

The reason many people were left with a sour taste in their mouths after watching this movie was because they felt they were not represented as ideally as they could have been. It is perfectly justifiable to want input on the way your race is being depicted in a movie.

Every African American isn't upset and everyone doesn't have to be upset by this movie, but those who are upset have the right to voice their opinion without being censored.


24 January 2010

Misguided compliment or positive stereotype?

Misguided compliment or positive stereotype?

By Nicole E. Avery

GVL Columnist

In Monday's edition of the Lanthorn you can find printed responses from students who were asked the question, "How have you been stereotyped?" in the "Your Insights" section on the Opinion page.

Of course there are obvious responses that jump to the forefront of my mind when I see/read the word stereotyped -- skin color, race, hairstyles, clothing, accents -- but being too smart?

Being stereotyped as someone who is good at math apparently upset one Grand Valley State University student -- "I always get people that think I'm really good at math. Honestly, I'm not bad, but they shouldn't assume that."

Was this student really complaining about people thinking she was too smart? I'm glad the student took the time to clarify she is somewhat smart or good at math but is not a genius and does not appreciate being stereotyped as such.

I have never in my life heard someone of a certain ethnic heritage complain about being stereotyped "smart." Maybe it's just because there are loads of negative stereotypes on which people mainly focus.

I'll apologize in advance for singling this particular student out for her quote, but reading her response raised the question in my mind whether all stereotyping is really negative. Can people benefit from positive stereotypes, or because the fact is still untrue, would assuming something about another person ultimately have a negative affect?

If it's not meant in an oppressive, negative way, why even waste your time complaining about it? If someone looked at me and said, "Wow, Nicole is biracial, I bet she is fantastic at bingo," I would smile because that is a silly correlation and because I think of old people when I think of bingo -- which is technically a stereotype.

It's a free country, so it is everyone's inherent, American right to complain about whatever they like, but it's a proven, scientific fact you exert less energy and use less muscles when smiling as opposed to frowning.

My point is there are enough negative things to be upset about and I am not going to sit around and be offended by things that don't really matter -- it's hard enough dealing with real racial or other types of offensive comments.

If someone thinks I have a certain skill, I'll just accept his or her assumptions of my talents whether it's entirely true or only "mostly" true and I'll accept them as a compliment.


Haiti—When to give when to not

Haiti—When to give when to not
By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

The roar from the rumbling earthquake in Haiti has been echoing in the news and across Grand Valley State campuses all week and has reminded me of the resounding amount of pressure felt by the American people to come to the aid of any country in substantial need of assistance.

An article online from Associated Press writer “Haiti: Where will all the money go?” an article
Sharon Theimer states that, “President Barack Obama promised at least $100 million in earthquake aid. That comes on top of substantial spending by the United States in Haiti in recent years for economic development, such as the country's textile industry, humanitarian assistance, environmental programs, and law enforcement.”

How can we send $100 million dollars in aid to Haiti but force students to pay back the Michigan Promise scholarship?

Why are senators suggesting an annual foreign assistance budget specifically for Haiti and ignore the problems and frustrations of our own people?

It isn’t right and it’s not acceptable.

How is it possible that the U.S. has sent over $800 million to the government of Haiti since 2004 and yet the quality of living for the Haitian people has not improved?

Treating others how you would like to be treated is a basic universal principle instilled in all races, creeds, and religions and the ability to care about people that you’ve never met is one of the most amendable aspects of humanity.

Guilt is another universal part of the human existence that will be at some point or another in your life and is unavoidable. Some people feel guilty about not being able to sending money to aid impoverished countries like Haiti while others feel guilty about—for whatever reason—not wanting to send money at all.

The people who are hesitant to send aid to Haiti are so for two reasons: They’re afraid their money is going to be sucked up by the government and never reach the people of Haiti, and because they’re angry that the American government can take care of everyone else but their own.

There are three things that haven’t changed in the past decade at least—Haiti was a poor country before the earthquake, the will remain as such until their government begins to function in a way that directly benefits the people of Haiti and the U.S. and other countries are still sending money to Haiti that is not being even remotely used as it should be.

Governments have a responsibility to take care of the needs of their own people first.

The people of Haiti do need outside help, but Haiti should be receiving really help and support from their own government. The Haitian government needs to make a real effort and use some of the millions of dollars sent to them to actually rebuild their country.

I’m not against aiding anyone in need but I am against my government ignoring the needs of my own people to help someone else. I believe we can have both but it will take the Haitian government meeting us more than half way and more help from other wealthy countries.


10 January 2010

Game of 'Life' is no game

Game of 'Life' is no game

By Nicole E. Avery GVL Columnist

Remember the board game called The Game of Life?

It was originally created in 1860 as a checker board game by Milton Bradley and called simply The Checkered Game of Life. I didn't realize the game was that old or that possibly Charles Dickens or Nathaniel Hawthorn could have played it. As time went on the game evolved and ironically the latest edition, done in 2005, includes a "lawsuit" feature at which I can't help but smile.

I played it recently with some close friends. The idea of playing came up as a joke started after my friend mentioned earlier he had been sent home as a disciplinary action from his Meijer job with the advice from his manager to "take the time to consider his future."

We set up the board and I was allowed to pick my little plastic sedan first and place it at the start.

From the very beginning of the game you're accosted with decision making. The first choice was deciding whether to take out $100,000 in tuition loans or go straight to a career -- of course I picked the most realistic to my own life and chose the debt.

Since none of the people playing were under the age of 12, it went relatively fast. I'll admit it was fun. I became a wealthy accountant, while my friend who got sent home from his job went through three careers, filled up his plastic minivan with children and with every other turn was either fined, taxed, sued or in some sort of accident resulting in medical fees.

In the end, my friend managed to pay off his massive debt just in the nick of time before entering retirement.

I -- of course -- won the game, but when I found myself gloating over my successful fictitious life I started to wonder what was the point of this game.

The game has obvious undertones that suggest every choice leads to another choice, and if you make a well-thought-out choice you'll eventually come out on top.

Of course I'm not going to let a board game give me a false sense of achievement or confidence because it is only a simulation of life, but it was nice to be successful at something, and the idea that making smarter choices in the present will pay off in the future isn't that far stretched of a concept.

Life isn't as cut and dry as a board game but every action does have a reaction. The wrong choices seem to spiral out of control similar to a horrifying domino effect.

If I could save myself some grief by making a more conscious effort to be aware of my own actions and choices, I think the benefit would be well worth my time.